THE challenge will be faced, not feared. As Rangers take to the field in Moscow this evening, their night in Villarreal will inspire them.

The draw against the La Liga giants in September saw Steven Gerrard’s side get their campaign off to a memorable start. Now, victory against Spartak Moscow would take them to the brink of a knockout round berth.

When Gerrard was appointed at Ibrox in the summer, few would have imagined his side would be competing in Group G. Even fewer would have dreamed they could have a chance to qualify for the next stage of the competition.

Having followed up that point against Villarreal with a win over Rapid Vienna and draw at home to Spartak, Rangers find themselves top of the table after three matches. The job has been started, but there is plenty to do to finish it.

“The first message is to embrace this,” Gerrard said. “They have worked so hard and done so well so far to first of all earn the right to be in arenas like this.

“And to test themselves against the likes of Spartak. I know they are not in the best of form, but they are still playing against players worth £20million and this is what they wanted so they should embrace it and not fear it and basically approach it like they did when we went to Villareal away.

“But approach like we did in the second half where you show respect to the opposition, but you play with the shackles off and you be free and go and embrace it.

“It took us 45 minutes in Spain to believe that we are a good team and that we belong in stadiums like this and have earned the right to be here.

“That takes time. Maybe it’s a goal that spark you into a performance or words at half-time.

“Maybe it’s an individual who does something in the game the other players look at and perform in a way where it brings everyone else with them.

“The second half in Villareal, if we can get anywhere near that, I’m quite confident we can do well here.”

It looked like Rangers were in for a long night in El Madrigal when they fell behind to Carlos Bacca’s strike inside the first minute. Come the 90th, they were disappointed not to win it after Scott Arfield and then Kyle Lafferty twice pulled them level.

Rangers had to find the balance between defensive resolve and attacking intent in Spain and that same equilibrium will need to be achieved tonight in the Spartak Stadium.

The Light Blues were on the front foot against Shukpi and Osijek but had their backs to the wall at times as they overcame Maribor and Ufa.

Spanish coach Raul Riancho got the point that he came for at Ibrox a fortnight ago but Gerrard only has one thing in his mind in Moscow.

“The easiest thing to do in football is park the bus,” he said. “In certain games you put men behind the ball, frustrate and time waste.

“And play for that set-piece or that one moment you have something to hang on in a game.

“I don’t believe in doing it that way, but you obviously respect opponents when they do that against you. That’s nothing we can control.

“We will always, certainly at home, try to play aggressive on the front foot.

“Away from home we want to be very organised and we create opportunities to go and hurt teams. There are certain games where maybe you are left with no choice.

“But it’s not my style. I want to coach and enjoy football, I don’t want to be negative.

“I want to be as positive as we can. I believe in attacking football and entertainment, I believe in that.”

The point that Spartak earned at Ibrox was only the second that they achieved in their first three Group G encounters and came amidst a backdrop of a series of problems off the park.

The Russians showed little attacking intent first time around but that isn’t an option for Riancho’s side this time around as they look to keep alive their dreams of a knockout berth.

Gerrard said: “They have to win. They’ve got no choice. A draw doesn’t really put them in control or do anything for them.

“There is no way in the world they are going to sit back. I think they will come for us.

“I think they will go for it and try to change the atmosphere of the crowd here by scoring first and trying to get a positive win against us. So we have to be aware of that.

“I’d rather they sit back and go for a draw. If they sat back and let us have all of the ball, I would prefer that.

“I don’t think Spartak’s fans or their manager will allow that to happen. He has been very clear in his quotes that they have to win the game.

“They will be positive and go for it. I think he has already alluded to his gameplan.”

Rangers may have been left frustrated with the point they earned for their efforts at Ibrox but there was at least one positive for Gerrard as his side clinched a place in the Light Blues’ history books.

The Gers are now eleven games unbeaten in European competition this term. After several years away from continental action and the embarrassment of defeat to Progres Niederkorn, Gerrard has helped restore some pride in recent weeks.

“It’s been excellent for the fans, certainly after what they have been through,” Gerrard said. “It’s important for them. Of course, with Rangers’ history, they believe we belong in Europe.

“We just want to continue to work hard and find performances and results which keep us here.

“I don’t want a one-off run and then go missing for a couple of years. I want us to do as well as we can this year.

“The challenge is, ‘can we get out the group?’ We’ve done well so far, but we want more.

“And then we have go and do as well as we can domestically to make sure we get a crack at it next year again.”