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Coaches vow to push for points

Published: Tuesday 1 November 2005, 11.01CET
The coaches of FC Artmedia and Rangers FC both promised an attacking approach as the quest to qualify from a tight Group H reaches Matchday 4.
by Margus Luik & Andrew Haslam
from Bratislava

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Published: Tuesday 1 November 2005, 11.01CET

Coaches vow to push for points

The coaches of FC Artmedia and Rangers FC both promised an attacking approach as the quest to qualify from a tight Group H reaches Matchday 4.

FC Artmedia's unlikely bid to reach the knockout stages of the UEFA Champions League faces another stern examination on Tuesday evening as Scottish champions Rangers FC travel to Bratislava with both sides looking for three points which would leave them in a strong position to progress from Group H.

No room for error
The clubs shared a goalless draw at Ibrox on Matchday 3, a result which left both challengers on four points, two behind leaders FC Internazionale Milano and one above 2004 winners FC Porto. Artmedia have already tasted victory at home against Glaswegian opposition this season, crushing Rangers' Old Firm rivals Celtic FC 5-0 in the second qualifying round first leg, although captain Balázs Borbély played down the significance of that success.

Famous goal
"We can't look back to the game against Celtic as this will be a completely different match against a new opponent, and besides football in the group stage is not the same as in the knockout rounds," said the man who scored the famous winning goal at Porto on Matchday 2. "However, I believe we are in good shape and also in a good position to fight for qualification to stay in Europe."

'Fit and ready'
Czech defender Aleš Hellebrand is not expected to play, although striker Branislav Obžera returned from injury in Friday's 1-0 loss at MFK Ružomberok and is available for what promises to be a titanic tussle. Coach Vladimír Weiss said "no decisions on selection will be made until Tuesday morning" although "all the players who played in Glasgow are fit and ready".

Coach confident
Weiss continued: "We're going into this game with confidence high and will be playing to win. The mood in the dressing room is good and we're hoping that is reflected in our performance. We're not favourites to win against Rangers but we are certainly in a stronger position than before with four points won."

'Under pressure'
The Artmedia coach is also aware that opposite number Alex McLeish "is under pressure back home" after Rangers slipped further off the Scottish Premier League pace following a 1-1 home draw against Inverness Caledonian Thistle FC - meaning the champions have dropped 17 points in 13 league games this term.

'Complete faith'
With the heat on, McLeish underlined the importance of this European venture. "It could turn our season around," said the Scot. "I have complete and absolute trust in my players, no doubt at all. The players have already proven this season that they can raise their game in the UEFA Champions League. We put in a terrific home performance against Artmedia and were unlucky not to win."

Confident Ricksen
Dutch midfielder Fernando Ricksen said he and his team-mates were "fighting for Rangers Football Club" and McLeish: "It's easy for the media to point out one person - the manager - but we are all in this difficult situation together. The manager puts his trust in eleven players but we haven't delivered. Tuesday gives us another chance to do so. I believe good things are coming. We're at least working hard on this so have every right to believe we will still be in Europe after Christmas."

Defenders passed fit
José Pierre-Fanfan will miss the match with a hamstring injury although McLeish confirmed that first-choice centre-backs Sotirios Kyrgiakos and Julien Rodriguez are both fit after knee and hamstring injuries respectively. Francis Jeffers has recovered from a hamstring problem too, but Thomas Buffel (knee), Federico Nieto (ankle) and Nacho Novo (foot) are all out.

Last updated: 01/11/05 17.06CET