STEVEN Gerrard claims that Celtic have started to fear his Rangers side – because Brendan Rodgers told him as much in Dubai during the January transfer window. The Ibrox manager and his old gaffer bumped into each other in Dubai as both sides prepared for their mid-season lay-offs and the Englishman insists that thoughts of the 1-0 Ibrox defeat at the end of December weren’t far from his mind. Few would have suspected that only a month later Rodgers would be leaving for Leicester City and Neil Lennon was taking the Parkhead hot-seat and seeing Celtic through to an eighth successive title.

“You’d have to ask Celtic if they fear us more now than they did before,” said Gerrard. “But speaking to Brendan Rodgers in Dubai during the winter break, I certainly got that impression.

“Listening to their interviews and reading between the lines, I think there’s a lot more respect for this Rangers team and squad now,” he added. “We shocked them in that December game and it hurt them for a while because there was a big break after it.

“The Old Firm games were very one-sided before I came in. A lot of Rangers fans watched those previous derbies from behind the couch. So we’ve got some belief back. Players have more confidence and they feel they can go toe-to-toe with Celtic. That’s good, it’s important that the players have that. But I expect a better Celtic on Sunday, one that’s fired up and who show Rangers a level of respect. We’ve earned that by showing that we’re game for this challenge.”

While Gerrard knew Rodgers’ ways intimately, the match-up with Lennon introduces a different dynamic. While he hopes to complete a home clean sweep against Celtic for the first time since the 2009-10, Lennon went undefeated at Ibrox whilst at Hibs. “Neil and Brendan have different ways and they’re certainly different characters,” he said. “Neil has done a good job getting them over the line in a pressured situation. The plan is to beat Celtic again on Sunday. It would be a good result and make the fans happy. But as a staff we’ll analyse every game.”