Rafa Benitez believes Steven Gerrard is primed to pass the biggest test of his young managerial life amid the intense pressure of an Old Firm apprenticeship at Celtic Park.
Gerrard’s tactical mentor is convinced the Rangers boss possesses an ability to operate with a calmness under pressure, but his managerial inexperience is set to be tested by Brendan Rodgers’ Celtic.
The Spaniard saw Gerrard’s passion fire up many a Liverpool performance during a trophy-laden six years together at Anfield.
However, it is lessons learned watching a cold and calculated Benitez conduct tactical masterclasses at the highest level that rookie manager Gerrard can bring to the table in his first Glasgow derby.
Benitez said: ‘The fans there and the atmosphere make it tough. For a new, young manager — even when you’ve been there as a player — it’s not the same as being on the pitch. When you have to make big decisions, it’s different. But I think Steven can handle it.’
The ex-England captain was lectured in the art of not panicking when it goes wrong, never more so than when Benitez’s calm head helped spark a comeback at 3-0 down to Milan to win the 2005 Champions League.
‘Steven will have analysed everything — and realised that’s a good approach,’ said Benitez. ‘Now he’s in the position. He’ll have learned from that.’