Rangers manager Steven Gerrard has warned his players to forget about a potential William Hill Scottish Cup semi-final against Celtic and focus on the task in hand against Aberdeen.
Aberdeen are chasing their third win over Rangers in Glasgow this season and Gerrard knows it would be foolish to start looking ahead to the last four, where Neil Lennon’s side await the winners of Tuesday’s replay.
“Any game against Aberdeen is always huge,” Gerrard said. “The message from me is forget the semi-final. We have a big, tough challenge smacking us in the face and we need to go and perform at a level that is capable of getting us the right result.
“I think it would be very naive of the players to think about Hampden. We have a job to do at Ibrox first and foremost.”
Gerrard commented after the initial 1-1 draw that he was looking forward to playing the Dons on a bigger and better pitch after observing that the Pittodrie surface had not been rolled after the hosts trained on it.
But he knows that Aberdeen are currently more dangerous on the road than their own ground. Derek McInnes’ side had won seven consecutive away games before frustrating the champions in a goalless draw at Celtic Park on Saturday, while they have only won one of their last eight home matches.
“They are an effective team,” said Gerrard. “It suits them to sit in and be organised and have men behind the ball. They follow man to man in separate areas and they have players who are quick on the counter-attack.
“Maybe their style is suited at the moment to playing away from home, we will be aware of that.
“But we won’t change in any way, we always focus the majority of our preparation on ourselves and trying to improve us. But I don’t think the players need any extra drilling in terms of what Aberdeen are about. They should know by now, we have played them often enough.”
This is the sixth meeting between the teams this season with Aberdeen on two wins and Rangers one, but Gerrard is not amending his preparations in any way to take their familiarity with their opponents into account.
“We just prepare for a good Aberdeen team, a team that’s been very effective on the road of late,” he said.
“We do our normal preparation, we give the players a game plan, we show them Aberdeen’s strengths and weaknesses and then we go out and focus on ourselves to make sure we try and get the level of performance we are looking for.”