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Rangers seek consolation prize

Published: Monday 8 December 2003, 22.01CET
Rangers FC coach Alex McLeish is confident his team can earn a UEFA Cup place at Panathinaikos FC's expense.

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Published: Monday 8 December 2003, 22.01CET

Rangers seek consolation prize

Rangers FC coach Alex McLeish is confident his team can earn a UEFA Cup place at Panathinaikos FC's expense.

By Alex O'Henley in Glasgow

Rangers FC will be looking to salvage a UEFA Cup place from the remnants of their UEFA Champions League campaign as they end their Group E challenge with a game against Panathinaikos FC at Ibrox.

Draw sufficient
Alex McLeish's side hold a three-point advantage over their Greek visitors, and know a point will be enough to secure third position in the section and a place in Friday's draw for the third round of the UEFA Cup.

'Good performance'
Despite the disappointment of failing to qualify for the knockout stages, McLeish believes Rangers deserve to prolong their involvement in continental competition. "The players love playing in Europe and we want to stay there as long as possible," he said. "We have played well in our games at Ibrox and we need another good performance to progress to the UEFA Cup."

'Tough game'
"It's a complete one-off because both sides have something to play for, but it's a home game for us in front of our own fans. Panathinaikos have to travel and I'd like to think this would be a tough game for them."

Disruptive injuries
The Rangers manager has had to field an understrength team for much of the campaign with key players such as Ronald de Boer and Craig Moore unavailable through injury, and the Scottish champions face another headache against Panathinaikos with Shota Arveladze ruled out after failing a late fitness test on his knee. Brazilian midfield player Emerson will also miss the game following the death of his father

Turning point
The Greek side won their only point in Group E against Rangers on Matchday 2, a late equaliser from Pantelis Konstantinidis earning a 1-1 draw in Athens. Rangers striker Michael Mols believes that setback proved to be the turning point in his side's campaign, as defeats by Manchester United FC - twice - and VfB Stuttgart have followed.

'Important to stay in Europe'
"Had we taken three points in Athens, things might have been different," said Mols. "It was always going to be difficult to get a result against Manchester United. But it's important for the club and the players to stay in Europe and we will do everything to get the result we need."

Striker shortage
Panathinaikos arrived in Glasgow without their first-choice forwards Dimitrios Papadopoulos and Emmanuel Olisadebe because of injury, but coach Itzhak Shum is confident his team can still get the win they require.

'Lack of luck'
"We haven't had much luck in our matches so far," said Shum. "A lot of important players are injured but we will have to go with the players we have and try to win the game. I hope the players can give everything and if we are positive, I'm sure we can win."

'Scottish spirit'
Danish defender René Henriksen was just as optimistic, adding: "I expect a tough, close game against a team that will play with a lot of spirit like all Scottish sides do. However, we aim to take our chance and go into the UEFA Cup."

Last updated: 09/12/03 11.34CET