Rangers: Gerrard's men crowned Scottish champions
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Rangers boss Steven Gerrard has urged his players to ensure their standards do not drop ahead of the Scottish Cup fourth round clash against Old Firm rivals Celtic later this month. The Hoops, who are reportedly close to appointing Eddie Howe as their new manager, have struggled to lay a glove on Rangers all season, failing spectacularly in their bid to secure an unprecedented tenth successive Scottish Premiership title.
Gerrard’s side wrapped up proceedings last month after Celtic’s draw at Dundee United ensured they had an unassailable advantage, marking their first domestic triumph since the club were hit with financial trouble and forced to drop down to Scottish League Two back in 2012.
Their last meeting, a dead rubber in league action at Celtic Park on March 21, ended in a 1-1 draw with Mohamed Elyounoussi’s early opener for the hosts cancelled out by an equaliser courtesy of Alfredo Morelos.
The two Scottish heavyweights will meet again in the next round of the Scottish Cup on April 17, after Rangers defeated Cove Rangers and Celtic breezed past Falkirk in their respective third round ties.
Gerrard has declared that winning the competition is now his main objective after sealing the league title with plenty of time to spare, with a domestic double well within reach.
He stressed that his Rangers squad will need to retain their focus for the visit of Celtic, who will be hoping to restore some pride with a first Old Firm victory of the season.
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“It is [a chance to get the double],” Gerrard told reporters. “This cup has become a priority now with the league done and dusted. We still want to see the league out as strong as we can.
“We want to try to keep our level and it’s my job to make sure the players don’t start becoming complacent or thinking they can drop their standards.
“But this cup has become a priority now. We are happy with the home draw to come out and obviously it being Celtic now makes it even more interesting.
“It will be a tough game, a tough challenge but one we’re very much looking forward to.”
There is a chance that Gerrard could be accompanied on the touchline later this month by former Bournemouth boss Howe, who is the overwhelming favourite to take up the vacant managerial position at Celtic.
Recent reports have suggested that a formal announcement from Parkhead is imminent, and there have even been claims that the 43-year-old has lined up Cherries skipper Steve Cook as his first summer signing.
Gerrard remained coy when quizzed on the speculation, claiming that he will relish the challenge of a new opposite number at Celtic regardless of whether or not Howe is the man in question.
“Ask me that question [about Howe] if and when it happens,” said Gerrard. “There has been a lot of speculation and a lot of names bandied around over the last couple of weeks and months.
“I’m aware of it but I haven’t really taken much notice of it. From my point of view, it’s obviously important I keep doing my job here.
“Whoever they decide to choose, when that happens, I will look forward to the challenge and the battle and moving forward.”
Celtic are the current Scottish Cup holders, sealing their 37th triumph last season after squeezing past Heart of Midlothian on penalties at Hampden Park.
Meanwhile, Rangers have not won the competition since 2009 and will be determined to get their hands back on the trophy this time around.
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