Steven Gerrard had told Borna Barisic to prove he is fit enough to claim a place in Rangers’ starting line-up for Sunday’s Betfred Cup final.
The Croatia left-back is an injury doubt to face Celtic after sitting out Wednesday’s draw at Aberdeen with a bone bruising to his foot.
Barisic was the target of some heavy challenges during last month’s win at Hamilton and had to be given injections to get him through recent clashes with Feyenoord and Hearts.
Gerrard is eager to start the 27-year-old, who has laid on 10 goals for his team-mates this term, but only if he is ready to battle through 90 minutes and potentially extra time.
The Ibrox boss, who is also sweating on the availability of a couple of other unnamed first-team stars, said: “Borna did a light session today. He did three quarters of that. We’re very hopeful.
🎥 PRESS CONFERENCE | Part One | Steven Gerrard spoke to the media today ahead of Sunday’s final at Hampden Park. pic.twitter.com/73yHIZDmfM
— Rangers Football Club (@RangersFC) December 6, 2019
“We’ve still got to do one more session tomorrow so Borna and a few more who were carrying knocks from Aberdeen will be given as late as possible to give themselves the best chance to make themselves available.
“It’s important that they say to us, ‘Yes I’m 100 per cent and ready’ because it’s going to be a tough challenge on Sunday against a good team.
“There is a possibility it could go further than the 90 minutes so the players need to prove to me in the session that they are ready and show me too.
“Borna needs to be ready to do himself justice and to find his best level. He has to think about the supporters and the team and not make a decision on ego.”
Online rumours have suggested midfielder Steve Davis is one of the players at risk of missing out but Gerrard would only say: “I don’t read what’s online. You get a lot of online opinions and keyboard warriors going on about Rangers.
“We’ve still got one session left. I’ll give you that we’ve got one or two carrying knocks.
“We will have everyone out there tomorrow morning trying to get through the last session. If that’s the case I should have a fully fit group to pick from.
“I’ll know more tomorrow. If the last session was today I’d definitely be saying we have one or two doubts but we’ve still got 48 hours before the game, there’s more treatment to be given so I’d say I’m more hopeful sitting here right now. But that could go either way.”
Sunday’s showpiece is Gerrard’s first final since moving into management but the former Liverpool captain has plenty of experience of competing on the biggest stage. He famously led the Reds to a Champions League title as well as lifting three English League Cups, a couple of FA Cups and the UEFA Cup.
Now he has urged his players to grasp the opportunity to write their own chapter into the Ibrox history books as they look to end the club’s eight-year wait for a major honour and smash Celtic’s reign of dominance.
He said: “I’ve always loved finals from being a young kid, whether it be at schools, as an amateur and even more so since I turned professional as the trophies mean more.
“Throughout my life football has always been about cup finals and success so I’m looking forward to it.
“It’s not about me and the trophies I’ve won. This about Rangers and the players and us giving ourselves the chance to win our first trophy together.
“It was a setback when we didn’t do that last year. Now it’s about getting over the final hurdle which will be the most difficult I’m sure.
“If we manage to do it it would be a huge lift for the supporters and the club. We’d certainly benefit from that as a group.
— Rangers Football Club (@RangersFC) November 7, 2019
“We’ve definitely progressed in the 18 months we’ve been together. We’re now competitive and have shown on the European stage against high-level opposition we can win.
“Domestically there’s more respect for Rangers now and Sunday gives us another chance to grab something. I’m sure there will be benefits from that.
“I took over at a very difficult time. The club had suffered for some time. The results were indifferent but I’d like to think we’ve built a more consistent and competitive team.
“But there are still more hurdles we need to get over before we’re the finished article. There’s no way I’m going to sit here and say this is the level that I want. I want to drive the standards further and give us the best chance of being successful going forward.”