STEVEN GERRARD has heard the theories and seen the headlines. Like the odds from the bookies, the Rangers manager takes no notice of either.

This will be an Old Firm game like no other, and the build-up has been in keeping with the theme. As international action has dominated the agenda, it was only on Friday that Gerrard got his full squad assembled to focus on the most important game of the Premiership campaign thus far.

While Rangers have kept their cards close to their chest in recent days, there has been more going on across the city as Neil Lennon has had to deal with the Coronavirus issues that have hit his squad.

For many, Rangers are now favourites going to Parkhead and there is a new pressure and expectation that comes with a unique situation. Gerrard won't get caught up in the noise and the ifs, buts and maybes.

"I don’t listen to that in all honesty," he said. "I don’t get involved in who the bookies’ favourites are and blah, blah, blah.

"Listen we have missed three really important starters for close to a month in Ryan Jack, Joe Aribo and Kemar Roofe. We probably won’t have two of them available.

"These challenges come up throughout a season at different times. We have faced them before and I’m sure we will in the future.

"We are all living through the Covid challenge at the moment. All kinds of clubs have had different challenges with it and unfortunately it is not going to go away in the near future.

"It is what it is. We all have to get on with it and move forward. But I don’t listen to the noise around who’s the favourites and who’s not the favourites in these games.

"Normally, the team that gets the small details right on the day and carries out their gameplan best comes out victorious. I don’t think that is going to change either."

A solid start to the campaign ensures Rangers will take a one point lead to Parkhead this afternoon, although they have played a game more than their Old Firm rivals in the title race.

This will be their sternest test so far but they are returning to a venue where they recorded their most memorable win of last season.

For all the doubts around what side Lennon will be able to field and the questions over what impact no fans will have on derby day, there remains an appreciation of how difficult a fixture this will be for Rangers.

"For myself and the players, we can certainly tap into that experience but I don’t think it gives us any other advantage really," Gerrard said.

"It’s a different game, a new challenge. Celtic have strengthened again in a couple of windows since. Personnel can be different. Game plans can be different.

"Listen, it’s going to be tough game. I think the last one was the first time we had won there in a decade. I think that says how tough the fixture is.

"Celtic are in good form. I’m reading that they are not in fantastic form and they have got this player missing or that player missing, but they are good team and a good squad. Whatever eleven they put out will be a difficult challenge for us and we certainly respect the challenge we are going to face.

"But in terms of how we feel now compared to when I first came in, I think we have a group of players who are better now.

"We have a group who have more confidence and more belief that they are capable of going to venues like this and getting the right result."

While Celtic have had Covid concerns during recent days, Gerrard has also kept a close eye on his international stars.

The preparation for Parkhead hasn't been normal, but then very little is this season.

Gerrard said: “It hasn’t been ideal, it hasn’t been helpful, but it’s been the same for both teams. It is what it is.

"I think whoever decided to move it to now thought fans would be back in stadiums by now.

“International football is what it is, you have to cope and manage that too. You just have to hope your players come back available for you."