Steven Gerrard has warned Rangers they will suffer fresh Old Firm pain if they repeat last week’s sub-standard display against Hibernian.
The Ibrox boss has been full of praise for his players for the way they have responded to March’s derby defeat at Celtic Park.
It took a late winner from James Forrest to snatch a 2-1 victory in that match after Gers bravely fought back despite having to play a man light for almost an hour after Alfredo Morelos’ dismissal.
Since then Rangers have racked up five straight wins, netting 12 goals and conceding just one along the way.
Yet Gerrard was furious with his team’s second-half showing against Paul Heckingbottom’s men last Sunday.
The Light Blues led at the break thanks to Jermain Defoe’s strike but the foot came off the gas after the interval and Gers were lucky to survive with the win as Hibs came close late on.
Now Gerrard is worried if his players switch off again they will blow their hopes of balancing up this season’s derby head-to-head at two wins apiece.
He said: “The last time we played at Parkhead, from half-time onwards and even with 10 men, the players were excellent. They did everything they could in that 45 minutes to take something from the game.
“Even though we lost, we gave the 10 men left on the pitch a lot of praise. To roll their sleeves up like they did against a good team on a big pitch meant we actually took a lot of confidence away from that Old Firm.
“That belief has now just snowballed from there and we’ve been very good.
“Now we need to take that form and try to find another performance as it will be another tough challenge.
“We need to make sure we’re right at it as the performance and the intensity we put in against Hibs, with all due respect, doesn’t win you an Old Firm.”
Celtic have already wrapped up their eighth league crown in a row but Gerrard does not view Sunday’s game as a marker for next season.
“There is plenty of time in the four weeks we’ll have off in the summer to worry about next season,” said the former Liverpool skipper. “The focus is on this game and this three points – we don’t need to look any further than that.”
The Rangers boss has a major decision to make on who he starts up front, with Morelos available again after his four-game ban but Defoe on form with three goals in his last five games.
But Gerrard has confirmed the rejuvenated Steven Davis will be the first name on his teamsheet.
The Northern Irishman was brought back to Ibrox in January to boost Gers’ title push.
But it took time for the former Southampton skipper to get up to speed having started just two games for Saints before making his return to Glasgow
However, the 34-year-old has rediscovered his best form over the last five games, capping a man-of-the-match display against Hibs with a hand in Defoe’s winner.
And his recent performances have been so good Gerrard admits there is no way he could consider leaving the former club captain out when Celtic arrive at Ibrox for the final derby battle of the campaign.
“Steven Davis been excellent in the last period of games,” said the Rangers boss, who has rewarded Davis with a one-year deal for next season. “Now he’s 100 per cent fit and sharp, you can see him running football matches for us.
“He got a very important assist last weekend but beyond that his overall game was strong.
“He’s covering a lot more ground, he’s aggressive, he’s happy, he’s confident and that type of Steven Davis obviously warrants a place in the 11 whatever game is coming up.
“He was man of that match at the weekend and rightly so, so just imagine if I didn’t play him.”