Scotland full-back Stephen O’Donnell has confirmed that manager Steve Clarke has warned himself and his fellow defenders not to lose their discipline if they are manhandled by Rangers’ mercurial striker Alfredo Morelos, but insists that his team-mates will have their own way of dealing with the Colombian when the clubs meet at Rugby Park tonight.

O’Donnell argues that it would be remiss of the home rearguard not to attempt to goad the 22-year-old, who has a notoriously short fuse, into losing his temper.

Morelos plays on the edge and has collected 22 yellow cards and been dismissed three times since he moved to Ibrox from HJK Helsinki 18 months ago and Rangers’ leading goalscorer is rarely far from controversy.

“You see some of the stuff that happens and there are always wee niggly bits in games,” said O’Donnell. “He seems to be involved in more of them than most, but he also scores more goals than most.

“It’s all about how referees manage games and, if the ref is fair to both sides, I couldn’t care less. It doesn’t make a difference.

“I’m not a huge fan of the wee nasty bits you can get in games. One of my best mates – I won’t say who – nearly ripped my arm off last season. I had cuts all over it but that’s football for you.

“I don’t do it too much but sometimes you get a wee bit of red mist and I’ve been known to have that myself; you can’t judge people too much.

“Morelos has obviously been under scrutiny with the stuff in the Celtic game, but he’s a top player. It’s not up to me or our gaffer to manage Alfredo Morelos, it’s up to Steven Gerrard. I’m sure our centre-backs will maybe try and provoke him.”

O’Donnell also disclosed that he deliberately reacted to a flailing arm from Motherwell’s Curtis Main at Fir Park on Boxing Day to ensure that the burly target man was shown a red card.

“I maybe went down a bit theatrically but he had tried to crack me right in the face and missed,” he said. “Then he came in lightly and I made sure he was going off because he shouldn’t have done what he did in the first place.

“If that happens, I will be prepared to stand my ground if I need to. But that’s just football; you come up against it every week. This game is no different.”

Should Kilmarnock manage to beat Rangers for the third time in 13 months, they will move above them into second place and, if Celtic drop points against St Mirren for the second time this season, the Ayrshire club will return to pole position in the Ladbrokes Premiership.

The consistency Killie have displayed under Clarke has the squad dreaming of European football and more, as O’Donnell attests.

“The brilliant thing about the Premiership this year is that there are four teams up at the top and there’s not that big a gap to fifth,” he said.

“It’s exciting with things to play for and we’re going into a run of games which is really important for where we want to finish and how we want to compete.

“When February comes it’ll settle down a bit more, but I think the next month will really shape our season. We’ll see whether there is genuine optimism and a real opportunity to achieve something great, whether that is in a cup or the league.

“Obviously we are a bit wounded with Greg Stewart leaving [for Aberdeen] and that’ll make it more difficult for us, but we have players on the bench and even in the stand who can do a good job.

“We usually find a way and, when the chips are down, we come out fighting.”