• Updates on Cantwell, Sterling and McCausland
  • Assessing the impact of the Ibrox factor
  • Why Rangers are better than his Brugge Champions League side

You stated that Rangers were courageous last week. Will that need to be the case tomorrow with so many players out?

That is not something new. We have some players coming back also, like Todd Cantwell. There are others who are question marks or who are out. But that has been the strength of the team all season or all period together already, that everybody in the group is available. I know that Benfica rested four or five players at the weekend towards this game. But my players are ready, I saw enough today, I see the freshness is back, the hunger is really big. We know we need play above our level to qualify but we are going to do everything to do that and the support of the fans can give something extra. This game was sold out really fast. Although it is a really early kick-off and a lot of people have to take a day off work to get to the stadium but we could have sold the stadium two, three times. That means how much support there is from the fans and that they are really excited about this game.

Last week Rangers made some mistakes so what did you learn from that game?

Not only my players made mistakes but also the referee. Because the first goal, it was a pity I didn’t see that before the press conference, if you hit a ball against your hand with your head it is not a penalty. There was some help also from that side. Of course we made mistakes and we make mistakes in every game. I saw Porto against Arsenal, a really good game, but there were mistakes on both sides, otherwise there are no goals. We tried to make as least mistakes as possible. I think my team did a really good job in that way because there was not one open, really clear chance for them where my goalkeeper had to make an incredible save. They did a really good job there and we hope to do it again tomorrow. Offensively, to continue what we have been doing and that is scoring goals in every game.

Given the injuries, how will you be creative tomorrow?

Is that a question from the press or from the coach? We will be creative. The players are up to that. We are realistic also. We are not naïve, we know that Benfica has a really talented squad with a lot of experience also. They have World Cup winners in their team, they have a lot of really big talents who will go for a lot of money after this season maybe. And other players who have played at a really high level before. We know it will be a really big surprise in all of Europe if we can take out Benfica but we are really hungry to do that.

What are your thoughts about the young fan who died in Lisbon?

It is terrible news. That is the last thing you want, that people die. We see every fan as part of our family. That was really sad news to hear.

Is Todd Cantwell fit to play from the beginning?

He is ready to play an amount of minutes, what is always discussed with the medical staff and they give me an idea about that. I followed that already for five months. He is clearly not ready for 90 minutes and it is to decide if it is starting or not starting. I don’t want to give away too much. We know the amount of minutes he can play and he feels good. He was good in the training also. I am happy to see him back. Dujon will not be in the selection. It is a minor thing but it is too big a risk to let him play and make it more serious so we will see towards Sunday if it will be possible or not. Ross McCausland still has problems, like you guys saw at Hibs. He came in and played for some minutes but then he got more and more problems because there is still blood in his calf because of the hard tackle that he get. He did one part of the training that you guys saw, afterwards he was out also because we cannot force that too much. We will see tomorrow how he is and if he feels better or not if he can be in the selection.

Where does your confidence come from that you can deal with these issues?

Because they have proven it so many times already. And because of the feeling I get every day when I step into that dressing room. The dynamic that is there, the will that is there and every day what I see on the training ground. Players starting, players not starting, there is no difference. Players playing in another position, there is no difference. They all give their best with all the capacities they have for the team. We have won already a lot of games this season against good opponents and proven that also last Thursday. We will continue in that way. What I have said already a few times to the group and a lot of times to you guys, that is for me crucial. That mentality to be there for the team and not for yourself. They understand it now and I will be tough on that to see if someone steps out of that story he puts himself out of the story. Until now in five months I didn’t have to do that one time. Sometimes as a manager you need to react in the moment that it happens and put an example but they didn’t give me a chance for that until now.

How does the home advantage change the game?

I don’t know if it will change the game that much. We will see. It is also not important to change the game because we played a really good game in Benfica and we could have won also. If you don’t get the penalty against before half-time it is maybe another game. Those are the circumstances you don’t have control of. What will help a lot is that our fans are amazing, they give so much energy to the team to go above your level, to make the final sprint, to block a shot, to make a decisive action. You have this extra energy and that is what I am counting on also, that the fans from the first second until the last second go full for the team. It is a pity for us that the rules changed, I think last season, in Europe because normally a 2-2 result, if you have a 0-0 or 1-1, you qualify. It is not the case so it is going to be an interesting game and both teams will play to win.

What kind of game do you want to see?

I want to see a game that we win. I don’t really care about that. It depends also on the opponent, we are not the only team on the field. Going out with 70 per cent ball possession, you don’t like. I prefer to have the ball less but win.

Does this need to be the best performance of the season?

That depends also on the opponent if we need to be better than in Lisbon. We are only busy with ourselves and getting the best out of ourselves in the team to focus on ourselves in all the way we train. We are 80 per cent focus on ourselves and what we are going to do, how we are going to score goals, and 20 per cent on how we can stop teams. Of course against a team like Benfica with all their qualities you need to have  a lot of attention because they have players who can make the difference. All the players need to know every details, they have the experience from the first game also. We need to continue in that way. I said before Lisbon we would not park the bus there, like a lot of teams are doing against them. We didn’t do that. We will not do it in Ibrox but you need to be efficient. It is a top game with top quality on both sides. It will be decided in details so you need to take details to your side.

Have you managed a team in a European quarter-final?

Not as a manager. Yes as an assistant. With Brugge we went to the Europa League quarter-final. It is a good challenge. Thanks for reminding me it is a new one! But I am still a young manager!

It would be quite an achievement for the club and yourself…

That says enough that I didn’t realise that to be honest. I am totally not busy with that. I am busy with the boys, making every game a better game and getting everyone more understanding what we need in every game. It depends also on the opponent where spaces can be found. We are really focused on that a lot. I want to see a team grow. I get joy from seeing them grow, I get joy from seeing our fans get excited like it is now. It is crazy that you can sell your stadium three times when you have 51,000 people. Those are the exciting things, not that I get to a quarter-final or semi-final or whatever. It is not important.

Have you treated these two games different to a normal league game?

No. If you play against Dumbarton or you play against Benfica, the preparation is the same. Of course there are different details you focus on with the team because you expect some scenario in the game with how they play and how we need to play and where we can find spaces but the preparation is never different. Never.

How key will the experience of someone like James be tomorrow night?

Not only tomorrow night. It has been key from the beginning. I talked about that a few times when the questions came. It was really important also for me when I stepped into the building to know where the different fires were. He was the first one I talked with, which is a logical thing for me. Of course it is key. Football is not like a PlayStation where you have this controller, although I would like to have it sometimes. In a stadium like Ibrox with a lot of noise, you cannot reach the players all the time so you need experienced players on the pitch who really understand the story that we can have contact with to transmit the message towards the team. It is important and I have now three or four players who I can speak with that transmit it to the team. It is a crucial thing as a manager to have those, they are like your right hand on the pitch. I am really happy about that.

What could a win tomorrow night do for the confidence?

For the confidence? Nothing I think. I think the confidence is there. We don’t need to raise confidence. It would be something really exciting because they show something towards all of Europe, for their career it could be something really special also. When you do special things like that, you come to attention. Like I said, I understand the story here in the club also that if players can make a step higher than Rangers and there is a good deal for the club you need to accept that and we need to find other players to replace them in a good way. On evenings like this, you can make steps like that. But the most important thing is that they understand that it is not an individual thing to show yourself, they have to show themselves as a team. If they think about themselves only they will not perform well. We have been strong for five months because it has been a collective on whatever pitch, in whatever situation, with whatever team, against whatever opponent. That we need to continue.

Are Rangers still the underdogs in the tie?

Yeah, I think so. If you are realistic, yes. In my heart, no. I am always a realistic guy but a realistic guy also who puts his standards high. I know and I have seen that this team can do that. I told them also before the Benfica game that with Brugge we played 2-2 in Real Madrid. We deserved at least a point and we could have won that one. But this team is better, this Rangers team, for me, than the team that was there. I believe we can win, on a top day when the things fall on our side, we can win against whatever team. I really believe that really hard.