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Sporting out to dazzle Rangers

Published: Thursday 10 April 2008, 5.58CET
Getting one over a team in green and white hoops has come easily to Rangers FC this term yet Sporting Clube de Portugal promise much sterner resistance in Lisbon.
by Kevin Ashby
from Lisbon

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Published: Thursday 10 April 2008, 5.58CET

Sporting out to dazzle Rangers

Getting one over a team in green and white hoops has come easily to Rangers FC this term yet Sporting Clube de Portugal promise much sterner resistance in Lisbon.

Getting one over a team wearing green and white hoops may have come easily to Rangers FC in their two meetings with Celtic FC this season, yet Sporting Clube de Portugal promise to offer much sterner resistance with a UEFA Cup semi-final place on offer at the José Alvalade on Thursday.

Healthy lead
Rangers' seven-point lead in Scotland owes itself largely to victories against their city rivals in Premier League matches played at Ibrox. Sporting were more resolute there last week – and "tactically and technically superior" according to coach Paulo Bento – but they could not manage an away goal as the tie was left poised at 0-0. "It's still 50-50," Bento said. "We have to be fighters and sacrifice ourselves for 90 minutes. We need to take the initiative and take control of the game. If we're patient we'll be halfway to success, and the supporters will have to understand that."

In-form Yannick
The match is the second of four home games in ten days for Sporting, the first of which saw them beat SC Braga 2-0 on Sunday thanks to two goals from Yannick Djaló – his fourth in three Liga outings since recovering from injury – to stay in the hunt for a top-two finish. Central defender Anderson Polga tore a thigh muscle at the weekend and is expected to be replaced by the inexperienced Gladstone, though Bento refused to be drawn on his selection, saying: "I know who's going to play, the player knows he'll play, but you'll have to wait and see."

Cousin back
Rangers are also without a key centre-back as David Weir is suspended, meaning a likely start for Christian Dailly, while Charlie Adam is out "for a number of weeks" with a knee injury sustained in training. Better news for Walter Smith is the return to fitness of striker Daniel Cousin. "He's obviously short of match practice after four or five weeks out, but he will feature in the game," said the Rangers manager.

Four honours
Rangers' form has been such that they could win four competitions this season, and there is a sense that the squad are continuing to confound their experienced trainer. "How the players will react [on Thursday], we'll have to wait and see," said the 60-year-old. "We have no pedigree as a team so therefore we'll have to try and forge one." He added of Sporting: "We know them all well enough and they have players who can cause damage from different positions on the field."

Clash of styles
If the second leg will bring a clash of styles, Bento has called on his players to be "emotionally calm" in what could be another fierce contest. "We know that Rangers play the same way away as they do at home, which means it's up to us to stop them playing," continued the former Portugal anchorman, who does not believe the tie will go to penalties. What is certain, however, is that the long wait for a European trophy – 44 years for Sporting and 36 for Rangers – will be prolonged for one of these clubs.

Last updated: 10/04/08 22.49CET

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