STEVEN GERRARD believes securing Europa League qualification on Thursday night could be a pivotal moment in the campaign for Rangers.

The top two teams in Group D will meet for the second time this term when Benfica make the trip to Ibrox.

And it could be a successful evening for the winners of the Matchday Four tie as they also keep an eye on the fixture between Standard Liege and Lech Poznan in Belgium.

A home win for Liege would mean Rangers will reach the knockout stages if they can overcome the Portuguese giants on home soil.

And Gerrard knows that would be a major boost to their Premiership title aspirations if they can ensure progression with two games to spare.

Gerrard: "We want Thursday to be pivotal. We want it to be a big night. It’s a shame we haven’t got the crowd here to help us like they have before so we have to motivate ourselves, come out and try and get qualification done as quickly as possible.

"With three games to go we have given ourselves a fantastic platform but we are playing against a really good team with top players.

"But we are going to go foot to the floor on Thursday and give it everything we can to try and get the job done because maybe it can help us further down the line domestically.

"We have to wait and see if we can do that. That will be a challenge. Hopefully we can achieve that.

"If it does happen, it will certainly help us from a domestic point of view in terms of looking after people. But we certainly want to get it done as quickly as possible."

Rangers warmed up for the Benfica clash with a 4-0 victory over Aberdeen on Sunday as they extended their lead at the top of the Premiership standings.

Gerrard was able to bring Jermain Defoe, Ianis Hagi and Cedric Itten off the bench to rest legs against the Dons as the strength of his squad shone through once again.

Gerrard said: "That’s the pleasing thing for me, that the level and the understanding stays really high. You see the substitutes we brought on against Aberdeen and how eager they were to score.

"You can see JD’s hunger and movement, Ianis had a chance, Cedric had a couple of a chances.

"I still had (Brandon) Barker there and could have used him because he scored in the last game. We have certainly got the options and I am in a fantastic place at the moment in that respect.

"But the key is can we keep them healthy and keep the group in a good place for the rest of the season? If we do, we’ll continue to give teams a lot of problems.”

Rangers squandered a two goal lead in Lisbon earlier this month as Benfica claimed a dramatic 3-3 draw.

And there will be no fear factor ahead of an eagerly anticipated Euro clash.

Gerrard said: "It is a big challenge, it's a fantastic challenge, but what a game for the players to play in. We have just had a fantastic game against them which we should have won and we are disappointed with how it finished.

"But we are hoping Thursday night is going to be pivotal - we are going to go foot to the floor, we will be ready and we are going to try and be as aggressive as we can and try to get another three points to put us closer to qualification."