STEVEN Gerrard has admitted that a prolonged European run will hurt Rangers’ chances of winning their first league title for eight years but he still wanted to make it through to the last 32 of the Europa League.

Rangers sit top of their table on four points after two games and have now gone 10 games unbeaten in Europe which is a Scottish record.

Rangers take on Hearts at home today and a win for the league leaders, who do not have the distraction of European football, would put the Edinburgh side 11 points clear of Gerrard’s team, which even at such an early stage would give the Ibrox men little wriggle room if they are to mount a serious title challenge.

But the Rangers manager has his eye on keeping the club in Europe after Christmas even if the extra games will make it harder to challenge on a domestic level.

“It’s an advantage without a shadow of a doubt,” said Gerrard about Hearts and Hibernian not being in Europe. “When Liverpool went close in 2014 it was because week to week we had a lot of preparation time and the chance to recover.

“There’s no doubt about it that in terms of the league it is more difficult for ourselves and Celtic to play Thursday/Sunday. The volume of games will affect your league position and the points you collect.

“The important thing for us is to try and find that consistency and keep riding the wave. We don’t know how long the European journey is going to last. The important thing is we are still in touching distance when it comes to an end.”

Europe is a bonus and the league and cups a priority; however, Gerrard has shown that he is not prepared to field weakened sides in the Europa League and his starting XI against Hearts won’t hugely differ from the team which defeated Rapid Vienna on Thursday night.

“It would be huge to reach the 32. That is the target,” said Gerrard. “The draw was tough, but not impossible, and over the two games we have proved we can get out of the group.

“There is a lot of work to do and a lot of tough games, but the level of the two performances gets you into the last 32. That would be an incredible achievement from the players.

“Would our league form or domestic form suffer because of that? Possibly, but we won’t use that as an excuse. We want big games at Rangers. It’s what being at this club is all about.”