Rangers midfielder Greg Docherty is confident they will be ready for their first Europa League encounter on Tuesday.
The Ibrox side’s trip to Gibraltar to face St Joseph’s was brought forward by two days because of a fixture clash in the British overseas territory.
Manager Steven Gerrard was forced to cut the time some of his first-team players got in Sunday’s 5-0 friendly win over Oxford as a result but Docherty believes hard work done on a pre-season camp in Portugal will stand them in good stead on the artificial surface of Victoria Stadium.
“We feel ready for the game,” Docherty said. “Pre-season has been really difficult – harder than last year which I didn’t think was possible.
“We’ve really dug in and mentally it’s tough at times but you do feel stronger for it. We’re definitely a fit bunch in the changing room so it’s just about getting the match sharpness.”
The early stages of European qualifiers can pose problems for Scottish teams who have to balance summer time off with the early start.
Celtic lost 1-0 to Lincoln Red Imps in the same stadium three years ago, and Rangers have their own warning from recent history following their shock defeat by Progres Niederkorn of Luxembourg, who face Cork for the right to face Rangers or St Joseph’s in round two.
“You never take anyone for granted,” Docherty said. “It is just as big as a group game. We need to get through these hurdles.
“To progress in Europe, you are going to have to get over hurdles like this against different teams in different environments. But I am 100 per cent sure we will be ready for it and can get the job done.”
Docherty is back in the fold following a successful season on loan at Shrewsbury and could find himself in early action, with Scott Arfield only just back from international duty and new midfielder Joe Aribo working his way up to speed.
“Personally I feel completely different about things compared to this time last year,” the former Hamilton player said.
“I feel a lot better in myself after a really good year at Shrewsbury.
“I feel I grew massively off the pitch and became more mature. Being away in new surroundings, with different people, in an environment where nobody really knew who I was, was good. I was seen as this Rangers player so people were expecting me to perform.
“But it was a good pressure and one I enjoyed and dealt with well.”