EVERY game and every week carries a level of significance when you are at Rangers. Having come through an especially important seven days unscathed, Steven Gerrard is now preparing for another potentially defining hat-trick of fixtures.

The games with St Mirren, Aberdeen and Kilmarnock saw two Premiership wins earned and a Scottish Cup replay secured. That fifth-round rematch will come on Wednesday night, but the league meetings with St Johnstone and Hamilton either side of it are just as important.

Rangers have the chance to cut the gap to Celtic to three points when they host the Saints this afternoon and it is only once that job is done that Gerrard will think about what may unfold when their Old Firm rivals face Kilmarnock tomorrow.

It will be the same situation next weekend as well, with Rangers making the trip to Hamilton before Celtic meet Motherwell at home on the same Sunday afternoon.

Any slip-ups from Gerrard’s side could prove costly in the title race, but it is a challenge the Ibrox boss is prepared for having seen his players rise to the occasion against the two teams that are tucked in behind them in the Premiership standings.

“We all knew it was a big week,” Gerrard said. “We were aware of it as a staff, the players were, the supporters, the media.

“It did have a different feel and build up. But now we have actually done well up at Pittodrie and are still in the cup, this week becomes just as big.

“Because we are in a situation now where we need to take maximum points for as long as we can, to keep trying to stay in it.

“Football changes from game to game. Obviously there is a six point gap at the moment and we have managed to give ourselves a bit of a cushion from the teams behind us.

“But we respect what’s coming behind. We know we can’t afford dropped points.

“With Celtic’s fixture schedule we have to make sure we keep taking maximum points, just in case something happens across the road.”

Only Brendan Rodgers and his players will know if they are feeling any pressure at present but Rangers can’t afford to miss the chance to at least make Celtic think in the coming days.

With the third derby clash of the campaign to come at the end of March, it is imperative that the Light Blues don’t lose further ground in a run that also includes fixtures with Dundee, Hibernian and Kilmarnock.

Celtic haven’t had a challenge from their Old Firm rivals as they have racked up seven straight titles and Gerrard knows his side can’t waste any opportunity to reduce the deficit.

“That’s what we will try and do,” he said. “I think it’s important we are not focused too much anywhere else, in terms of what is behind or in front.

“We need to look at what’s happening here. We have St Johnstone and that will be a tough nut to crack.

“They will be organised and up for it. They are on a back of a run of fixture that haven’t suited them and normally they react really well. It will be an interesting challenge for the players.

“We will have to show patience. But we also have to play with an intensity and energy that makes St Johnstone suffer for 90 minutes. We can’t just think we can turn up for this.”

If Rangers are to go on and challenge for silverware in the final weeks of the season, the approach that saw them win at Pittodrie will need to be replicated on more than one occasion.

The moments of skill and composure proved the difference, but it was a performance built on a hard-work and resilience. Those characteristics have become the hallmarks of Rangers under Gerrard’s guidance.

“From the first day we walked in, a big part of it was to toughen the team up, get stronger players and stronger characters and work on the standards – not just how we play and the nice stuff about the game,” he said.

“We have been trying to work on stuff like when we’re out of possession, body on the line stuff, running hard for the team, digging in, stepping up when games get touch, nobody hiding.

“That’s the environment we’ve tried to create. For me, it’s sometimes more important than the pretty stuff that the fans all like. Of course, you’ve got to be a good player if you’re asked to come and play for Rangers but you’ve got the other side and that’s the side that gets you success.”

The effort that Gerrard demands should be a given against St Johnstone this afternoon and the Ibrox boss will hope his side are more fluent than they were in the final third against Kilmarnock last time out.

Strikers Jermain Defoe and Kyle Lafferty both trained on Friday morning but Gerrard will assess them before deciding who leads the line in place of the suspended Alfredo Morelos.

Gerrard faced a similar dilemma at Hampden earlier in the campaign and that experience will stand him in good stead if he finds himself short of a striker once again.

He said: “We had this situation against Aberdeen in the semi-final and we have looked at that.

“We have to learn from that. The easiest thing in the world is to blame your players but you have to analyse yourself too.

“Would I have done anything different? Maybe personnel and maybe in terms of set up.

“That is an idea that’s been on my mind for the last few days. I can’t predict the next few hours but I am confident we can get those players fit and available.

“Of course, there might be a stage in the game where we have to try something different.”