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Giovanni Van Bronckhorst is relishing the prospect of his first game in charge of Rangers as he challenged his new team to keep their Europa League campaign on track by defeating Sparta Prague at Ibrox on Thursday.
The Dutchman, who spent three years as a Rangers player, will experience the adulation of the support ahead of the must-win match against the Czechs and is hopeful that a positive atmosphere can help get his reign off to the perfect start.
Van Bronckhorst said: “I am looking forward to the first game back in the stadium and of course it will bring many memories of my time when I was a player. Very good memories. I can’t wait to feel the atmosphere again in the stadium but I am old enough to separate my emotions into the focus I need to perform with the team.
“Before the game it will be mixed feelings but once the whistle goes from the referee I will be fully focused on my task and that is to guide my team to victory.
“It’s a big game, a special game in Europe. They are always great nights at Ibrox in Europe. With the support of the fans in the stadium, we have to create the atmosphere and environment where we can play well and win the game.”
Van Bronckhorst only met his squad for the first time on Tuesday, but he has promised that there will be changes, both in terms of personnel and tactics.
He said: “It’s a very short time – only two days to train with the players. But I think they can already sense the things I want to change and what is needed to become successful again. Not only on the pitch but also the way we behave as a team and the way we have to be prepared mentally.
“You cannot do everything in two days. I need more time. But step by step, I’m sure the players will understand the way I work and the way I want to play.
“I have certain ways of playing against different systems. But you will see a team tomorrow in the system I like to play. It will be a different system against Prague than it was against Hibs (in the 3-1 defeat on Sunday). You will definitely see some changes.”
Rangers were sound defensively last term, but have been easier to score against this season and conceded three against Hibernian on Sunday.
Van Bronckhorst admits his new team must tighten up, saying: “We weren’t happy with the result or the goals we conceded so we have to make sure we are defensively much more focused and compact.
“That’s the main objective tomorrow, to defend really well and make sure we keep the zero.”
The last meeting between the teams in Prague was marred when schoolchildren in attendance booed Rangers player Glen Kamara, who had been racially abused by Slavia Prague player Ondrej Kudela in March.
Asked about any concerns he had about the potential for further racial incidents against the Czechs, the manager said: “We have seen a lot of circumstances in the stands. Not only the games we have played against Prague, but you can see in football it’s definitely a thing we want to get rid of. But we also know it’s hard to get rid of.
“It’s still there but we have to be focused on the match and make sure we are performing well on the pitch and fully focused on the thing we want to do. And that’s win against Prague.”