STEVEN GERRARD admits he is pleased Rangers are at home in the first leg of their Europa League last-32 tie against Braga to spare them from their supporters’ anxiety in the return.

The in-form Portuguese side travel to Ibrox on Thursday before welcoming Rangers for the second leg a week on Wednesday.

And while many managers would prefer to have home advantage in the second match, Gerrard is satisfied with how the draw has panned out.

“I actually think this time round I am quite happy that the first game is at home,” he said. “If you think about where we are right now, I am not sure I would pick [to have the second leg at home] if I had the opportunity.

“If we had to win the game or win it by more than one goal, the crowd could get a bit nervous and edgy. Whereas if we can find a performance that we are capable of and manage to keep a clean sheet at home then that would be the minimum I would like.

“A clean sheet gives you a good chance in the second leg. If we can get our noses in front then the problem becomes their problem.”

Rangers beat Porto at Ibrox in the group side earlier in the season and then held them to a draw on the road. Braga went into the weekend’s fixtures 16 points behind their domestic rivals but Gerrard warned it would be wrong to underestimate this week’s opponents.

“We will have to be at our ultimate best to progress through this because this is a real stern challenge for us,” he added. “The level is about to go up [compared to] the group stage. People might find that a bit of a surprise because we were in a group with Porto who were obviously very competitive.

“This is a good team, full of really technical good players, Brazilian players. But they’ve also got some grit and steel about them as well.

“In the footage I’ve watched so far they are very similar to Porto in style and the amount of technical players that they have.

“We’ve done ever so well to earn this opportunity. Obviously given the form we are in right now, this game is going to be one hell of a challenge for us.

“Bookmakers would probably make Braga favourites but that’s totally fine with us. Going into these two games if we are not on the money out of possession, in our organisation and doing it together, then we could have some issues and complications.

“We are going to have to be spot on in both sides of the game to get success over the two legs.”

Rangers have struggled since the return of domestic action following the winter break. And defender Andy Halliday would be happy for it to be scrapped altogether.

“You can see in England there is a lot of chat about it because teams like Liverpool and Manchester City have had a lot of games and they have pushed hard for a winter break,” he said. “Personally, I would like to just keep going – and that is not just because of what has happened over the last two years.

“The last game before the break we obviously get a very positive result at Parkhead and the momentum is with you. And sometimes that two-week break – and clearly it has happened this year – sets you back.

“The likes of James Tavernier and Conor Goldson might have a different mindset but I would like to crack on [and not have the break].”