KEEP calm and carry on. At Rangers, that is always easier said than done.

Steven Gerrard's message and mindset hasn't changed as he searches for answers at the end of one of the most difficult weeks of his managerial career.

Three defeats in seven days have put Gerrard and his players under a very different pressure right now and the importance of the cup tie with Dunfermline cannot be underestimated at Ibrox.

The loss to Dundee United need not have long-lasting ramifications for Rangers but the Champions League exit at the hands of Malmo will have greater consequences, both on and off the park.

It was an opportunity missed, a golden chance blown in spectacular fashion. It is a defeat that cannot be easily justified, and certainly not one that can be forgiven quickly.

Rangers may have moved up a level on the continent, but the challenge of overcoming Jon Dahl Tomasson's side was not insurmountable.

Malmo are an outfit that should be respected rather than feared and one that should have been beaten on Tuesday night as Rangers' mistakes cost them dearly.

The champions are capable and competitive at a certain level. Had they reached those standards over two matches with Malmo, they would still be operating at a higher echelon of European action.

Gerrard said: "I totally understand and appreciate the external scrutiny at the moment because of the start we have had and losing three in a week. It is totally understandable.

"But for me it is important to stay calm and realistic. We have played two games in the league, we have won one and lost one and our direct rivals have done exactly the same.

"The League Cup hasn’t started yet. The FA Cup hasn’t started yet and doesn’t start until after the New Year.

"OK, we haven’t qualified for the Champions League and over the two legs we haven’t deserved to qualify in the Champions League.

"The realistic opinion on that from me is maybe we’re not ready. Are we ready for PSG? Are we ready for Chelsea and Man City to come to Ibrox? Maybe not.

"At the end of the day, we have proven that we are a last 16 team in the Europa League. We have tried to punch above our weight in the last week and move into that play-off round in the Champions League.

"We couldn’t achieve it. We have to accept that and move on to the next challenge as soon as possible."

In the aftermath of the first leg loss last week, Gerrard had issued a rallying call to supporters as he urged Ibrox to play its part in helping his side reach the play-off round.

Tonight, the crowd reaction will be telling once again. Supporters will demand a reaction and Rangers are in desperate need of a performance and result to lift the dark clouds that linger overhead at present.

"Look, when you lose three football matches in a week, you can work out how the mood has been," Gerrard said.

"That is my job to lead in these situations and make sure we flip this mood as quickly as we can.

"Obviously you can pick the lads up, you can reset, but until that actual next game comes around, you have got to use this feeling to react in the right way and try and find that performance that flips the mood. That is exactly where we are right now.

"I don’t want to lie or bend the truth and say everything is fantastic at the moment and we are all cracking jokes and it is a really fun environment to be in. It doesn’t work like that at Rangers.

"If you get a bump or a setback or a couple of results that are not ideal, we want the mood to feel like it does because that is where the reaction and where the turnaround comes from.

"Players don’t like this feeling, coaching staff don’t and neither do our supporters.

"It is about unity, sticking together and getting that next game here as quickly as we can and then trying to put in a performance that can turn our form and turn the mood."

The change in Rangers' fortunes is not quite a case of hero to zero but Gerrard's side do have some making up to do to a support that are entitled to expect better than three defeats on the spin.

Title 55 will ensure that there is credit in the bank, but that cannot be relied upon in the long run as Rangers begin their latest attempts to win domestic cup silverware under Gerrard's guidance.

Gerrard said: "At the beginning of the season, we spoke about having to move on from last year. As a club and a manager, I made it pretty clear that we needed to move on.

"I agree with you in terms of having a tough week and the challenges that are in front of us. It is very much about trying to get back in a good place as quickly as we can and the way to do that is to win the next football match.

"This League Cup match is really important to us. We have picked a squad and I am going to pick a team that is really strong, which will mirror what I am saying.

"As soon as we win that football game, which we intend to do, I am sure the feeling will flip a bit more in our favour and then we have got to move onto the next challenge.

"We are well aware of the week we have been through. I am well aware of the challenge that is in front of me and us and it is very much a case of getting to this kick-off as quickly as we can because that is the only thing we can do, move into the next game and try and win what is in front of us."