THE fact that Rangers are the overwhelming favourites to beat part-time Gibraltarian minnows Lincoln Red Imps will have nothing to do with the unease that Ryan Kent will feel before kick-off in the Victoria Stadium on Thursday night.

Kent upset many of the Ibrox club’s supporters last season when he argued that he and his team mates performed better in the Europa League than they did in the Premiership because they were the underdogs.

His statement was made after he had scored a sublime winner against Braga in Portugal to secure a place in the last 16 – and the Glasgow outfit had fallen 12 points behind Celtic in the Scottish title race.

It was seen by some as an indication that Steven Gerrard’s players lacked the mental fortitude required to cope with the demands on them on the home front and challenge their city rivals for the top flight trophy.

Kent clarified his remarks earlier this week as he looked ahead to the second round match against a side who recorded an improbable win over the Parkhead club in a Champions League qualifier back in 2016.

“To be honest, I wasn’t aware that anyone was angered by those comments,” he said. “I would still say it is a very difficult competition and there isn’t as much expectation do well as there is domestically.”

Being expected to triumph, and triumph comfortably, against the Red Imps and progress, though, isn’t what is making Kent, who picked up the Premiership Player of the Month award for August on Friday, apprehensive.

The player who has attracted interest from Premier League new boys Leeds United in recent weeks knows that matches against lesser opposition are every bit as treacherous as those against famous foes in their own way.

He stressed that he will be taking the match every bit as seriously as the encounters with Legia Warsaw, Feyenoord, Porto, Young Boys, Braga and Bayer Leverkusen last term.

“In a sense this could be the most difficult part of the competition,” he said. “You can get caught out being complacent against teams where you think you should definitely be winning. We won’t overlook any team that we come across in the competition, especially at this stage.

“We are well aware of the task ahead of us to get to the group stages from this stage of the competition. We have been there before and we are definitely looking to do it again. We won’t be complacent, we won’t underestimate any team that we come across, we will give 100 per cent in every game until the group stages.

“We will treat every game like it’s the same – whether it’s one of the first qualifying rounds on Thursday or whether it is someone like Porto. It doesn’t matter about the opposition. We know what it takes and we will go into the game with a lot of confidence on the back of last season’s run in the Europa League and hopefully get another good run this year.”

The 23-year-old understands only too well that smaller clubs are more than capable of causing upsets from bitter personal experience; he made his debut for Liverpool in an FA Cup match against fourth tier Exeter City at St James Park back in 2016 and was unable to prevent the Anfield club being held to a 2-2 draw.

However, Kent believes the quality and experience that Rangers will have in the starting line-up in Gibraltar shoulder ensure they go through to a third round tie against either Progres Niederkorn of Luxembourg – who, of course, beat Rangers back in 2017 - or Willem II of the Netherlands.

The midfielder is certain that Gerrard’s charges, who lost the second leg of their last 16 double header to Leverkusen 1-0 when it was finally played in Germany at the start of last month, can use the experience they have gained to their advantage in the Europa League in the weeks ahead.

“Obviously, it was a dream come true at the time to make my Liverpool debut,” he said. “I was one of quite a few young lads making their debut and a lot of lads weren’t used to playing. But with this team now we’ve got a solid pre-season under our belt and a solid start to the season.

“There’s a lot of chemistry in the team and everyone knows it’s an important fixture and competition for the football club. It’s up to us not to let people down. We know the level of importance of this competition so we’ll prepare for this game like we would any other, give 100 per cent and hopefully come away with the result.

“On a personal level as well it’s a competition I want to achieve something in and put myself up against the best opposition in Europe. We know where we stand, but after the last two seasons in this competition there’s no reason we can’t kick on and progress further than we have so far.”

Gerrard, a Champions League winner in his playing days with Liverpool, has enjoyed his finest moments as Rangers manager in European competition. His £7m signing feels that years of playing at the highest level has given him an invaluable insight into what is required to do well.

“The gaffer will always give us confidence going in to every European tie,” he said. “He knows what it takes to compete at that level.

“There will always be a tactical element to the game, especially when you are coming up against the top team teams in Europe. He knows what’s required to get results out of these games like we showed last year. But there is also the motivational side.

“We wouldn’t have been where we were last year in the competition if we didn’t deserve it. We put in good performances and the team showed a lot of character in games to come back from difficult positions.

“All the players are aware what it means to the club, what it means to the fans, to qualify for the Europa League group stages. We will give everything in every game.”