BEING awarded four penalties may have helped Rangers romp to an emphatic and hugely contentious win against St Mirren at Ibrox on Saturday, but they will be keen to avoid a quartet of another kind when they meet Aberdeen once again at Pittodrie this evening.

Steven Gerrard’s team have been unable to overcome Derek McInnes’s side in their three previous meetings this season – they drew their opening Ladbrokes Premiership match 1-1 away in August, lost the Betfred Cup semi-final at Hampden 1-0 in October and then slumped to another 1-0 league defeat at home in December.

Failing to win their fourth game of the of the 2018/19 campaign against opponents who have finished runners-up in the top flight in the past four years will be detrimental to their ambitions.

READ MORE: Craig Beattie: The Rangers board will celebrate when Rodgers leaves

It will by no means be fatal to their hopes of deposing Celtic as Scottish champions come May. However, it will, provided the defending champions overcome Hibernian at home, allow their city rivals to edge seven or nine points at the top of the table. Psychologically, too, it would be damaging.

Gerrard, though, feels Rangers’ disappointing results against Aberdeen this season haven’t reflected how well they have acquitted themselves and is confident that his charges can end their winless run and record an important and morale-boosting victory if they perform to their best.

“Going through the games, I was really delighted with our performance at Pittodrie in the circumstances,” he said. “I was disappointed we didn’t get over the line, but I felt our level of performance was enough to get the win.

“The semi-final was frustrating. We were toothless (Alfredo Morelos was suspended, Kyle Lafferty was cup tied and Umar Sadiq, who has now left Ibrox, played as the lone striker). We didn’t have the firepower up top. But, as for how we played in the game, I couldn’t really ask the players for any more.

“The Ibrox fixture was most frustrating out of them all because we had all the control of the ball and got done by a sucker-punch from a set-piece. We know where we have gone wrong in this fixture and we know what we have to put right. This is a good opportunity to that.

“When we get to next week, I’m sure where we are playing St Johnstone at home, you guys will be saying it’s must-win and it is. That’s just the stage of the season we are at. But we can’t afford to drop any more points. We need to go on a run of consistent games and keep trying to push as hard as we can.”

Gerrard, a veteran of numerous Liverpool games against Everton and Manchester United as a player and therefore no stranger to fierce football rivalries, has enjoyed the atmosphere and intensity of the Rangers matches with Aberdeen despite the disappointing results and is looking forward to the occasion immensely.

“The players should be excited by this,” he said. “It is bigger than I thought coming in from the outside. Now I totally get it and understand it and I have more education around it. I think it’s a great fixture to play in for the players.

“It does have a similar feel to an Old Firm in a way. Obviously, nothing will ever compete to the Old Firm, but Aberdeen is probably the next in line.

“It is like the Liverpool games against Everton and Manchester United. Everton being the closest is the derby, but the Liverpool fans and United fans class that game as a derby. You do get that derby feeling in the build-up to an Aberdeen game.”

A recurring theme in Rangers’ encounters with Aberdeen this term has been the absence of Alfredo Morelos. The Colombian striker was red carded in both of their league matches, one of which was later rescinded on appeal, and suspended for the cup game after going over the disciplinary points threshold. Keeping their leading scorer on the park for the full 90 minutes, then, is important to their prospects.

James Tavernier, the Rangers captain, admitted not being affected by the hostile reception they get from the Aberdeen support will be important to the visitors’ chances of success.

“The gaffer has spoken to the boys and has been consistent about the fact we’ve got to go there with a clear head and not get caught in any of the madness,” he said.

“We’ve done that quite a bit this season already. It does cost us when we have 10 men because all the lads have to work harder. We’ve got to come off the pitch with 11 men. It’s going to be key for all the lads not to get involved in reckless challenges or heated debates.

“Outside Scotland you think about Rangers and Celtic, but as soon as you’re in you soon realise Rangers fans and Aberdeen fans don’t mix well. It’s almost another derby underneath the Old Firm, so it’s a must win game.

“The past two performances haven’t been good enough, especially in the final third. So we’ll be looking to correct that.”