STEVEN GERRARD believes that Alfredo Morelos has got defenders worried.
The Rangers striker was sent off last Sunday against Aberdeen after reacting to a bump from Dons’ defender Scott McKenna.
Although the red card was later rescinded, the Light Blues were forced to play for nearly 80 minutes without the Colombian after he kicked out.
His manager maintains the incident shows the opposition are running scared of Morelos.
He said: “I have had a chat with him to let him know the defenders will maybe target him, and how he has to embrace that and enjoy it.
“He should use it as a compliment that people are worried about his talent and what he can do to them.
“It needs to be the right edge that he shows. It can’t boil over and get to the stage where he lets his team-mates down.
“He’s an important player for us. He realises that and understands.
“He is still a young boy and will make mistakes – we’ve all made them – but I will give him the attention and support that he needs to help him.
“I had a conversation with him after the Aberdeen game. I felt sorry for him because I felt he was harshly treated.
“His response has been fantastic.
“I have been delighted with him from day one, He’s looking lean, sharp and there is more to come.
“I think he felt he let his team-mates down at Pittodrie.
“For the 12 minutes he was on the pitch, he was at it and looking as if he was about to post a very good performance.
“I said to him on the day that we forget about it and move on.
“He has bailed this team out many times with his goals and performances. So the fact that the other lads put a shift in for him, they maybe owed him it.
“I’m more confident he can make up for the Aberdeen game and he started doing that on Thursday night against Maribor.”
There was one significant black mark against Morelos during the Europa League qualifier against the Slovenians.
He had a goal chalked off for offside after blundering by moving ahead of the ball when Maribor gifted possession to Daniel Candeias.
Gerrard went on: “Alfredo maybe went too early and Daniel should have taken the ball to the keeper and cut it back.
“The disappointing thing wasn’t that incident. We’ll make mistakes, of course we will. It was more getting hurt at the other end so soon after it.”
Gerrard accepts that the return against Maribor on Thursday is a tricky tie despite taking a 3-1 lead to Slovenia.
Jon Flanagan is suspended, and there isn’t an obvious replacement at left-back following the sale of Declan John to Swansea.
For the moment, Gerrard is more concerned with starting his home Premiership campaign with a win against St Mirren this afternoon.
He said: “The starting 11 won’t be the same today, and it won’t be the same against Maribor.
“We are not good enough to pick and choose when we turn up for our games. We have to be at it in every single game.
“We need to treat St Mirren as we would if it was a Celtic coming to town, an Aberdeen or a Maribor.
“We have to have the same focus and attitude and try to improve our home form from last year.
“You can’t be dropping that amount of points at home.
“I think a lot of the games where Rangers dropped points last season was down to mentality and the approach to these types of games.
“We’ve made it clear to the players that it’s not acceptable because we’re not good enough to become complacent.
“We’re building something here and we need to have the same attitude and intensity.
“If any players in my team think they can waltz into this game and turn up, it won’t happen.”