THE European run started out under the Rock of Gibraltar. Steven Gerrard is confident it won’t end at The Quarry in Braga.

Few would have believed when Rangers beat St Joseph’s back in early July that Gerrard would bring his side to Portugal just 90 minutes away from the last 16 of the Europa League.

There have been few lows along the way for Rangers. The victory over Legia Warsaw that clinched a Group G spot will live long in the memory, as will the remarkable comeback that saw Gerrard’s side take control of this tie as they won 3-2 at Ibrox last week.

Qualifying for the sections was an achievement, emerging from a group which included Porto, Feyenoord and Young Boys an even greater one. Now Gerrard stands on the brink of his most significant feat as a manager.

The Europa League has given the 39-year-old some of the most nerve-shredding yet thrilling nights of his career in the dugout, while his players have continually risen to the challenges both home and away as impressive performances have been produced and results earned.

The Braga Municipal Stadium – carved into the Monte do Castro quarry – is a unique venue for this knockout tie. It is another stage that Rangers must now shine on.

“There are many reasons,” Gerrard said when asked why the European occasions bring out the best in his side. “Obviously the players understand the stage, it’s the stage they all want to play at.

“Playing against this level of opposition from an individual and collective point of view brings an extra focus and tiny bit of fear if you like – you realise you have to be at your best because first of all to compete in the match and try and win your own personal duel.

“You do feel a different focus and collective focus when the type of opposition are in front of you. And plus, they understand what it would mean to them and the fans if they manage to get it done.

“To go from where this club was from a European point of view when we walked in the door to where we could possibly take it in the next 24 hours is an incredible journey together. I think the players want to grasp that.

“It is big now. To qualify was big. To get out the group was bigger.

“And there’s another opportunity to go and achieve something special together and be in the last 16 of the second biggest competition in Europe. That’s a great achieve for Rangers if we look at where it was, what, 20 months ago.”

The debates about where Rangers are and where they should be in the Premiership have become increasingly fierce in recent times as another title attempt has been fluffed.

Progress has undoubtedly been made domestically, but it is in Europe where Rangers have really re-established themselves under Gerrard’s guidance. That infamous night in Luxembourg seems such a long time ago now.

Midtjylland were beaten away and Legia were held at home in the qualifiers, while the points earned against Porto and Feyenoord proved crucial in deciding their Group G fate.

Given Braga’s form in the Primeira Liga and the way they performed at for spells in the first leg, this could be the toughest challenge yet for the Light Blues.

Gerrard said: “I think those results are relevant if we can find the same level of performance. That is the key.

“The reason we got success in all of those games – and I have said this before – is that the lads have gone out and really stuck to what we have worked on and what we are trying to do. That is what has helped them bring that success.

“We are going to have use the experience of all of those games. There will be times when we are going to have to suffer together as a team. But there is no way we are coming here just to protect and hang on.

“In all those games, we have always tried to carry a threat. It is only Warsaw where we haven’t scored and we were magnificent from a defensive point of view that night.

“All those previous scorelines get the job done and that is what it’s about.”

The Municipal Stadium may not have the history of De Kuip or been as impressive as the Estádio do Dragão but this will be a real test for Rangers.

A first leg lead won’t mean Gerrard will take anything for granted as he backs his players to see off Ruben Amorim’s side this evening.

Gerrard said: “It is a unique stadium because of where it is situated and only having two sides but they are two real, impressive stands.

“Look, we have played in intimidating atmospheres, we play in a cauldron most weeks when we are at home. That certainly won’t phase us.

“It is important we are ready for this game, it is going to be a tough challenge because they have got good players and are a good team that are at home on their patch.

“So there are things that are not in our favour but we have handled these situations before and I have got confidence that the players will be fine.”