THE bigger the occasion, the higher the stakes, the more Ryan Kent thrives under the pressure and expectation at Ibrox.

The next game is always the most important for Rangers, but some naturally carry greater significance than others overall. The visit of Porto is one such fixture.

Victory over the Portuguese giants would put Steven Gerrard’s side on course for a Europa League knockout berth. If that result is to be achieved, Kent will be one of the players that the Gers boss relies on.

The winger was instrumental during the draw in the Estadio do Dragao a fortnight ago, while his performance against Hearts at Hampden gave supporters hope that he is close to hitting top gear after a frustrating start to his second spell at Ibrox.

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Matches like this bring out the best in Kent. The challenge is considerable for Rangers, but it is one the £7million man will rise to.

“I do love these European nights, the scale of the game, the top-level football,” Kent said. “For me personally, it’s the level where I want to test my ability, up against top teams and top players.

“They’re the best kind of games because they create a really big atmosphere. The fans love it here, we as players love it here – and these are games that we relish.

“I do respond to it. If you can play in front of the kind of atmosphere generated at Ibrox, it would bring the best out of anybody. And yes, it does take it up a notch on European nights. Definitely.”

The return of Kent in recent weeks has been a significant boost for Gerrard and the forward still has plenty more to come as he gains fitness and form.

The nature of his hamstring injuries ensures Gerrard will always be cautious about where and when to use Kent. As frustrating as that can be for him at times, it is being done for the right reasons.

Kent said: “I think I’m getting closer to 90 minutes. It’s just monitoring it at the moment.

“My muscles are still recovering from what I went though, so it’s just about keeping ticking over until I’m ready for 90 minutes.

“It’s been very difficult to stay patient. I want to play in every game, play as many minutes as I can in every game, but we’re just being cautious at the moment.

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“The hamstring is probably the most common injury for reasonably fast people. I think it’s the third time I’ve done it now, so I can’t really afford to do it a fourth time.

“I think that’s why I’m being extra cautious this time around. Probably, in the past, I’ve rushed to be back playing games and things haven’t gone to plan.

“So this time I’m monitoring very carefully. It was quite deflating for myself when I first came back to pull my muscle the way I did in my first game. I’m ready to make my mark again. I’m feeling better, feeling more fit, so I think the best is yet to come.”

If Kent can find anywhere near his top form this evening, Rangers will certainly stand a better chance of achieving the result required.

The 22-year-old missed the win over Feyenoord and defeat to Young Boys in the first month of European action before having a hand in Alfredo Morelos’ equaliser in Porto last time out.

Kent was part of the Gers squad that narrowly missed out on progression last season but reckons Gerrard’s side are better placed to go one stage further this term.

He said: “I think we were quite unfortunate last season because we put in some good performances and just fell short towards the end.

“I think we’re in a good position as it stands and we’ve shown we can match it up against top teams. Our performance away at Porto was very good, professional and we acquitted ourselves very well.

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“I think we’re going into this game with confidence. I think it’s the kind of mentality you’ve got to have especially at this football going into the season.

“The boys started really well before I came here. I was watching every game, seeing how well they were playing.

“So there is a big confidence in the team that we can go and achieve something this season.

“The performance and the result against Feyenoord was big. Last season we also put in some big performances against European teams. So anybody coming to Ibrox, it’s a big game for them as well.

“The fans will make it a great atmosphere and at the end of the day it’s down to us to go and put on a performance.”

The capture of Kent was the final piece of business that Gerrard completed during the summer window as he added more firepower to his Ibrox attack.

It is a forward line that has been lead by Morelos and Jermain Defoe so far and the pair have 33 goals between them in all competitions.

Kent is happy to keep providing the ammunition but the former Liverpool kid is eager to get on the scoresheet and get off and running in his second stint in Light Blue.

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Kent said: “That’s what you want as a winger. It’s up to you to provide opportunities and chances for them.

“But when you’ve got two players like that relishing their time in front of goal then you’ve got the best of both worlds with each of them.

“It would be massive for me to score. Adding numbers to my game is one of my big aims.

“Just to put in a solid performances week win week out, if I’m creating chances for others, then that’s the main thing.

“Like you mentioned, though, there are other players putting goals away in for fun at the moment.”