STEVEN GERRARD reckons Rangers were initially viewed as easy meat by their Europa League rivals – but insists they will not think that now.
The Ibrox boss can steer his side a step closer to the competition’s last 32 if they can beat Villarreal on Thursday night.
He said: “There is certainly belief (in the team that we can make it to the last 32).
“You know, I think we have been the surprise team in this group. I don’t think the opposition teams gave us much chance.
“I remember back to the draw. We were certainly the underdogs and I think the likes of Spartak (Moscow) and Villarreal probably saw us as comfortable opposition.
“So it’s credit to my players how well we’ve played in the competition so far. I think everyone is aware of our threat now, so nobody will be taking us lightly.”
If Gers can get a result against Javier Calleja’s La Liga big guns, they will head to their final game away to Rapid Vienna with a chance of escaping Group G.
But defeat to the Spaniards combined with a win for Spartak at home to the Austrians and it will be all over for the Light Blues.
“Everyone knows quite obviously we can’t afford to lose this game,” said Gerrard. “But we’ll go in with a plan, with belief and confidence that we can win the game.
“If we bring our A game and max out, I think we’re certainly capable.
“But come the final whistle it’s crucial we don’t lose. The draw takes it to the last game, to the wire – but we’re going to win it.”
Gerrard will ram home to his players that they should not fear Villarreal, especially after shocking the Yellow Submarine in their opening group game as they claimed a surprise 2-2 draw at El Madrigal.
He said: “That result certainly gave us confidence and belief. I thought we finished as the stronger team.
“And I sense the players are ready this time. This is the stage where we want to be and this is the type of opposition we want to test ourselves against.
“Villarreal are the favourites, they have got Champions League experience and a huge budget, individual players who are worth close to £20million – but this is a great test for us.”