THE Europa League anthem will ring round an empty Ibrox for the first – but hopefully not the last – time this season when Rangers face Galatasaray. For Steven Gerrard, it will be a Champions League tie in all-but name.

Gerrard has seen his side take some notable scalps in the qualifiers over the last two seasons and Willem II deserve their place near the top of the list after they were defeated last week. If one more can be added, then Galatasaray would be the biggest name yet on Rangers’ roll of honour.

In Gerrard’s first campaign, it was Maribor that were the most prestigious outfit that Rangers had to overcome. Last term, Midtjylland and Legia Warsaw couldn’t deny Gerrard another crack at the group stages.

Now it will be Galatasaray’s turn as they travel to Ibrox for a 90-minute shoot-out that, had the circumstances been different, could very well have been one of the most electrifying and enthralling nights of Gerrard’s managerial career.

The Turkish giants will arrive in Glasgow with plenty of pedigree and a few familiar faces in their ranks. Ryan Babel, Gerrard’s former team-mate at Liverpool, scored in their win over Hadjuk Split, while Radamel Falcao, Arda Turan and Fernando Muslera are amongst a star-studded squad headed by boss Fatih Terim.

On another day, and perhaps this will be the case in the future, these two could have been meeting in Europe’s premier club competition. Gerrard, then, is aware of the challenge that lies ahead for Rangers.

“I know Ryan very well, he is a good friend of mine,” he said. “I really enjoyed playing alongside him.

“I think he is in a good place in terms of where he is at with his football. He had a little bit of a mixed time at Liverpool but when he got it right he was a hell of a player to play alongside because he is powerful, he is quick, he can go past players and he has a cannon in his right foot.

“So he is a very dangerous opponent. But I know Galatasaray quite well in terms of personnel.

“We will have to find out a little more in terms of what system they are playing and their style home and away.

“We will do a lot more work this week on that. But it goes without staying that we are talking about a giant of a club. We will certainly have our respect for them come Thursday.

“It’s not getting easier as we progress through these qualifiers and that’s been the case in my two years here. At each stage the level of opponent, individually and collectively, goes higher.

“Football is about levels, there is no getting away from it. But this will be up there alongside the Portos, the Feyenoords and the Bragas of this world.

“We are going into a Champions League level of game. We are going to have to find a special level of performance.”

The chance to go head-to-head with one of the great names in European football is one that Gerrard and his players will relish. For Ianis Hagi, it will be extra special.

His father, Gheorghe, became a legend in Istanbul during his playing career and later returned as manager. The UEFA Cup that was won two decades ago was amongst a glittering haul of trophies that Hagi lifted in Turkey but Gerrard knows his playmaker won’t get caught up in the occasion at Ibrox.

“Yes, I appreciate and respect all that but with all due respect it’s not about that,” he said. “This is about Rangers v Galatasaray. Ianis is in a god place at the moment and is going from strength to strength from pre-season.

“He is really starting to come to the fore in terms of numbers and creation in his game. So we are very pleased with him.

“We don’t want him to go to this game with any baggage or thinking about anything that is not necessary. He just needs to focus on the 90 minutes and try to find his best performance for us.

“Anything else that comes around the fixture, sentiment, we respect it but it’s not really important.”

All that matters for Rangers is progression. The achievement of reaching the groups in successive seasons is an impressive one, but to complete the hat-trick would be remarkable.

The result in Tilburg arguably flattered Gerrard’s side on the night but there were plenty of positives for him to take from what was a memorable victory.

“It wasn’t a 4-0 game that’s for sure,” he said. “They were a good team and had some good players.

“I think we have had that thrown at us from different directions in terms of being heavily reliant on Alfredo over the last two years.

“It is something we have spoken about with the group and something we have tried to add to the squad, people who can get goals from different areas of the team.

“Obviously we work ever so hard on the set-piece side of it too. It’s well known that Tom (Culshaw) takes the lead on that but the players still have to go and do their jobs.

“It’s pleasing to see the goals come from different areas and that we are not reliant on certain individuals to get us the numbers.”