RANGERS can go top of the table with victory over Hearts at Tynecastle on Sunday – but boss Steven Gerrard admits he would rather be at Hampden.
The Ibrox men blew their chance at reaching this weekend’s Betfred Cup final with defeat to Aberdeen in the last four and it is the Dons who will take on Brendan Rodgers’ Celtic to decide the first trophy chance of the season.
Gers have their own prize on offer, however, and can overtake both the Jambos and Celtic to claim the league lead if they make the most of this weekend’s opportunity.
But Gerrard admits he wishes it was his former Liverpool boss Rodgers and not Craig Levein that he was facing in the opposite dugout.
Gerrard said: “We want to be competitive in every single game and Hearts is the next one. There is an opportunity to go top of the table because Celtic and Aberdeen play in the cup final.
“To be honest, I’d rather be in the cup final but it is what it is.
“It will be a tough game. Craig has got the team flying high. They’ve had some injuries of late which has probably affected their form but they’ve still had a fantastic season so far.
“We’re under no illusions that it will be a tough game. It’s an intense crowd which is close to the pitch.
“We’re on the back of a European night and it’s a really tough test for the players but we’re capable of getting the result we want.”
The last time Gers sat at the league summit at this stage in the season was 2011 under Ally McCoist – just months before the Craig Whyte regime crumbled into a financial blackhole.
But Gerrard is not getting carried away by the prospect of ending that long wait in Gorgie.
He said: “It’d be very nice if by the end of the weekend we’re sitting top of the table.
“But you get nothing for that at this stage of the season. It’s a long race and there is a lot of football to be played.
“It is, however, a good incentive to the players.”
The Light Blues will head to the capital in buoyant mood after setting up a do-or-die Europa League clash with Rapid Vienna in two weeks’ time.
Thursday night’s goalless draw with Villarreal means a victory in Austria will book a place in the last 32.
“I’m very proud of the players,” said Gerrard, whose side had survived against the LaLiga big guns for 45 minutes with 10 men after seeing Daniel Candieas sent off just before half-time.
“They deserve a lot of credit for the efforts they put in over the 90 minutes in the circumstances.
“But we need to move on very quickly. We’ve set up a fantastic game in two weeks’ time but we park that up and switch our focus back to a very tough game at Tynecastle.”
Rangers are also still weighing up whether they can challenge Candeias’ dismissal after his controversial second booking.
Gerrad added: “I’ve just spoken to Daniel and he’s fine. He feels hard done by and, having seen the incident back, I feel for him. I don’t think he did much wrong.
“Worst-case scenario it was a foul, I don’t think anyone deserved a yellow in that situation. We’ll analyse it and see what we do next. We may do nothing but we haven’t had much time to decide.”