London (AFP) – Giovanni van Bronckhorst has urged his Rangers players to ignore the pressure of trying to reach the club’s first European final for 14 years when they face RB Leipzig on Thursday.
Van Bronckhorst’s side play the first leg of the Europa League semi-final in Germany, with thousands of the club’s fans making the trip for a historic occasion.
It is Rangers’ first last-four appearance in a continental competition since 2008, when they lost the UEFA Cup final against Zenit St Petersburg.
Van Bronckhorst knows players can easily be overwhelmed by the expectations of Rangers’ demanding fanbase.
But the former Barcelona and Netherlands midfielder is determined to keep his squad focused on their individual duties in the first leg rather than worry about the bigger picture.
“You have to block all the media, block all the pressure you get from outside to win these legs and just concentrate on your preparation and your performance,” Van Bronckhorst told reporters on Wednesday.
“That’s what the players also have to do — make sure we prepare well, as normal, and when the whistle goes go into the game, give everything you have on the pitch and make sure you have a good result. In that aspect for me it’s no different.”
Rangers’ support in Leipzig is expected to reach at least 7,000 and Van Bronckhorst hopes their passionate backing will help reduce the German side’s advantage on their own turf.
“We have had that the whole season when we’ve played abroad. The fan-base who travel with us are amazing,” he said.
“It feels a little bit like playing at home when you are away.”
Rangers have beaten Borussia Dortmund, Red Star Belgrade and Braga in their surprise run.
The Scottish champions might be outsiders to lift the trophy, but Van Bronckhorst wants one last push to reach the May 18 final against West Ham or Eintracht Frankfurt.
“Well, of course we have the belief. If we are still involved in Europe and in a semi-final and you see the run we’ve had in Europe, then it’s been very good,” he said.
“The confidence is there but I think also that we know that we have to perform again. Everything we achieved in the past doesn’t count against Leipzig.
“I’m sure that we can get good performances in and have a chance to make the final.”