STEVEN GERRARD hopes Rangers are handed a stiff Europa League test this season after clinching a play-off berth in Russia.

The Light Blues progressed through a fourth qualifying tie with a 1-1 draw against Ufa as Ovie Ejaria’s early goal proved enough on the night.

Rangers will discover their group stage opponents when the draw is made today and Gerrard has no fears over what could like ahead for his side.

He said: “I always had one eye on this moment. This was a moment I really wanted to push hard for because it was the first thing we could achieve as a team.

“When you achieve something, it brings confidence, belief and satisfaction. Then you hopefully build on it.

“But that doesn’t mean that everything is perfect now. We’ve got a lot to learn, a long way to go and a lot of building to do.

“I hope the draw is really tough for them. I hope we get big teams and big players and big challenges because that’s where I want my players.

“That’s where Rangers should be. We should be rubbing shoulders with big players, big stadiums, big tests. Why not? Bring it on.

“It will do us no harm. If we play and English team and it doesn’t go how we want it to, it will do my players no harm at all.”

Rangers had to dig deep in Ufa after Alfredo Morelos and Jon Flanagan were dismissed in either half.

And Gerrard was full of praise for his players as they stood up to be counted in the face of a Russian onslaught.

He said: “We had our first bump in the road against Motherwell and I could see a few people in the dressing room making noises and sounds and I said to them it doesn’t work like that, you can’t achieve things unless you are strong and you stick together and I think tonight we have become a team.

“I asked for heroes and warriors but they have gone beyond that, I think. It’s some achievement but I want my players to get the credit for it.

“I came in on day one and asked too much from them, every single one of them. But they have given me that and more.

“In terms of pride and satisfaction, that is right up there with my playing days.

“Of course it is about trophies and success and it always will be at this club.

“But if you go back to where it was 12 months ago, and where it was when I walked in the door, these players have given an almighty effort to turn it round and give the fans something to smile about.”

Rangers will now turn their attentions to the first Old Firm clash of the season as Gerrard takes his side to Parkhead on Sunday.

And the 38-year-old is confident his side can rise to another challenge against Celtic after a memorable night in Russia.

Gerrard said: “It depends how you look at it. Of course it’s not ideal preparation to play a large chunk of a game five hours away on a plane with nine men. I’m not going to get away from that.

“But what I will say to my players is that every challenge, every hurdle that has been put in front of them, they have done their best to try and get over it.

“It’s a huge game. I can’t play it down. It’s a big test against a good team.

“We’ll go there and give it our best but tonight is about players really sitting back and enjoying the flight home and enjoying what they have achieved. They have been superb.”