Rangers give Kaunas a mountain to climb

Former FC Porto coach José Couceiro knows "a lot of improvements are needed" in order for his FBK Kaunas side to be ready to challenge Rangers FC next week.

José Couceiro says he needs to make rapid improvements to his side
José Couceiro says he needs to make rapid improvements to his side ©Getty Images

Problems emerge
The Lithuanian club sealed their passage to the second qualifying round of the UEFA Champions League with a 3-1 win at home against FC Santa Coloma of Andorra capping a 7-2 aggregate success, but the Portuguese coach was far from dazzled by his side's first game since he took charge. "It was a good result, but I was not satisfied with the quality of our game," said the 45-year-old. "I have only been with the team for four or five days. We seemed to be doing well in training but come the game we saw problems. The players were not good enough moving off the ball and while controlling it you could see some technical problems."

Set-piece attention
The former Portugal Under-21 coach knows his side will need to raise their game substantially if they are to avoid humiliation in the first leg of their tie against Scottish giants Rangers on 29/30 July, and go into the home leg on 5/6 August with something to play for. The coach said he was "not Jesus Christ" but promised to work what miracles he could in time for the trip to face last season's UEFA Cup finalists. "Rangers are a very strong club," he conceded. "The Scottish are especially dangerous from set pieces. Over the next week in training we need to do a very serious amount of work on this."

Relative strengths
Eyebrows were raised in Portugal and Lithuania when Couceiro was named as Andrei Zygmantovich's replacement, and it would be a truly massive surprise if the coach can earn his side a place in the third qualifying round given the level of competition in the Baltic state. "Lithuanian basketball is about the same standard as Portuguese football, but with football in your country things are different," Couceiro said. "Kaunas have a lot of strong individual players, but the team is poorly prepared both in terms of technique and tactics. A lot of improvements are needed in this respect."

Velička angle
The game against Rangers could also see Lithuanian striker Andrius Velička come up against his former team-mates for the first time. The 29-year-old joined Rangers this summer from Norwegian side Viking FK having previously been on loan with Edinburgh side Heart of Midlothian FC. He had been on Kaunas's books since 1996, scoring 91 goals in 169 A Lyga games for his hometown club. Velička scored his first goal at his new club when a Rangers XI beat Greenock Morton FC 3-1 in a friendly game on Tuesday.