Steven Gerrard believes Rangers are no longer the pushovers they were the last time they took on Hibernian.
Rangers’ last game before Gerrard took over saw them play out a 5-5 Easter Road thriller against Neil Lennon’s side on the final day of last season.
The Light Blues found themselves 3-0 down within 22 minutes and while caretaker boss Jimmy Nicholl’s team hit back with a five-goal blitz, they could not see out the win as Hibs’ hat-trick hero Jamie Maclaren forced a draw in stoppage time.
The neutrals would have loved the end-to-end Leith affair but it was that match which made Gerrard realise he had to stiffen up Rangers’ backline if he was to stand any chance of making the Ibrox side contenders this term.
The proof of whether he has achieved that will come on Wednesday night when the teams meet for the first time since May’s classic clash and the Rangers boss, whose side are back on top of the Ladbrokes Premiership after Sunday’s win over Hamilton, said: “I watched the game. It was one of those crazy games where both sides were going gung-ho.
“But I think you could see really clear just in that one game where Rangers were at the time. Very high scorers with a lot of attacking flair on the pitch.
“But they also had that tendency to concede a lot of goals as well. It happened in a couple of the Old Firms last season and it happened that day against Hibs.
“So it was quite clear looking in that day that the team needed help from a defensive point of view and that’s what we’ve tried to do.
“I wouldn’t mind scoring five goals again but I don’t really want my side to concede five this time.”
Lennon lapped up his side’s last-gasp equaliser with his famous aeroplane celebration on the Easter Road pitch.
Former Liverpool skipper Gerrard faced the one-time Leicester and Celtic battler numerous times as a player and expects another explosive clash following Hibs’ weekend Hoops triumph.
He said: “I think it’s going to be a big challenge for us. They’re a good team with good players.
“We all know this is their manager Neil Lennon’s big fixture and I’m sure he will want to get one over on Rangers, so it’s got all the makings of an exciting game.
“They’re on the back of a big performance against Celtic so I’m sure the confidence is high.
“I know Neil well. I played against him, competed against him, bumped into him a few times on holiday. He was a competitive player and is a competitive manager, so I’m really looking forward to going toe-to-toe on the side.”
Rangers let top spot slip from their grasp earlier this month but are back on top after beating Accies.
Now Gerrard wants to maintain their position among the leading pack ahead of a tough run that includes trips to Hibs and St Johnstone before the Boxing Day visit of Lennon’s side is followed by an Old Firm duel at Ibrox on December 29.
He said: “Consistency is the thing we’re looking for. The last time we were top of the league we didn’t get the reaction I wanted.
“We always knew December would be a tough schedule. But the next four games are a chance to finish the year strong and try to set the second half up well.
“We want to be on top or as close to on top as we can.”