Rangers: Steven Gerrard keen to avoid a repeat of last season's European humiliation

Progres Niederkorn
Rangers lost to Progres Niederkorn in the first round of Europa League qualifying last season

Rangers manager Steven Gerrard says he will not allow the complacency that contributed to last season's Europa League exit to be repeated.

The Ibrox side slumped to a humiliating aggregate defeat to Luxembourg's Progres Niederkorn in the first round of Europa League qualifying.

Gerrard says this season's opponents, Macedonian side Shkupi, will be given full respect.

"The message will be, 'lets focus on the first game'," Gerrard said.

"I don't think it'll be a very difficult team-talk that first qualifying round, just because of what happened last year. The team, the squad were very complacent and went out at that stage, so the team talk is already done really.

"It's important you stay focused, you show this team from Macedonia huge respect because they've earned the right to be here and to have the chance to play against Rangers.

"Rangers as a draw, it's a cup final for anyone. It's a shop window for their players, they'll be desperate to knock us out like the team did last year. We have to be on our toes and show everyone the respect they need."

Shkupi, based in the Macedonian capital of Skopje, finished fourth in their domestic league last season.

Should Rangers progress through that tie they face Petrocub of Moldova or Osijek, the Croatian side who were seeded in Wednesday's draw and beat PSV Eindhoven home and away to reach the play-off round last season.

Steven Gerrard has experience of playing in Macedonia, representing England in Skopje in 2006

Gerrard says he is relishing the prospect of leading his side out at a sell-out Ibrox for the first time.

"I'm very excited to be involved in the draw and have that opportunity to try and qualify for the Europa League," the former Liverpool captain told Rangers TV.

"I'm sure the players want to be on that stage and have that platform for their own personal career.

"It's a good draw for us, it'll be a good test. We've been drawn at home first so I'm excited to get in front of the Ibrox crowd for real, and hopefully we'll get a good result to set us up for the away leg.

"We want to play in Europe. This club belongs in Europe. First and foremost we've got to go and qualify.

"The players that we've brought in here, that chat is always on the agenda, they want to play in Europe, I want to coach in Europe and all the fans want big nights at Ibrox and the opportunity to travel away and support the team. So we're not going to play it down, it's very important and we want to be in that group stage."

Gerrard has experience of playing in Macedonia, having been part of the England side that won 1-0 in September 2006 in a Euro 2008 qualifier in Skopje.

"It's tough," he said. "They have technical players, it's probably going to be the biggest night of most of their players' careers with all due respect. They're going to come in with a cup final mentality, they're going to raise the game all over the park and will be desperate to get a result.

"We have to be ready for that, embrace it, enjoy that little bit of pressure and go there and perform."

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