STEVEN GERRARD has warned his Rangers players that opponents will be even more determined to beat them now they are top of the Ladbrokes Premiership.
So he has laid clear that they will have to work harder to stay at the summit than they did to reach it.
Rangers moved top of the league for the first time since being promoted two-and-a-half years ago when they beat Hearts on Sunday while Celtic were preparing to retain the Betfred Cup with victory over Aberdeen.
The Dons visit Ibrox on Wednesday night looking to take one scalp from their extended stay in Glasgow and Gerrard has steeled his players for the challenge.
“We’ve had to work extremely hard to be in the position we are in,” he said.
“We understand Celtic have got a game in hand and people are pushing from behind and we respect and appreciate all that.
“The message to the players is quite clear: you have worked ever so hard to get where you are, but now you have to work even harder to stay where you are because the pressure comes even more from behind.
“Everyone wants to beat Rangers and knock Rangers anyway, so that just becomes a little bit more when you are sitting top.”
Rangers have suffered late disappointments twice against the Dons this season, losing a last-gasp equaliser at Pittodrie after Alfredo Morelos’ early red card, then going down 1-0 in the Betfred Cup semi-final without the suspended Colombian and cup-tied Kyle Lafferty.
Umar Sadiq struggled in a rare appearance up front at Hampden and Gerrard is pleased to have more firepower at his disposal this time round.
“I don’t think we’ve had the results maybe our performances have deserved, but that’s football,” he said. “You have got to credit Aberdeen.
“It was a very tough game on the opening day, down to 10 men for the majority of the game, but our performance was excellent, and to take a point away from a rival in the circumstances was actually a good result.
“Semi-final, we thought we played well in general play and lacked a bit of quality in the final third, and we got done against the run of play on a set-piece, which we know Aberdeen are very strong at. Credit to Aberdeen for progressing to the final.
“This is a completely different game, it’s at Ibrox. It will be great to have two recognised strikers available. We have played Aberdeen twice now and we have only had a recognised striker on the pitch for 12 minutes.
“We are going in with confidence, in a good place. We have Morelos in form, ready to go, and we also have Lafferty who is back in the form he was in when he first came.”