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Rangers must avoid Fiorentina cup repeat

ACF Fiorentina will look to go back to the future when they visit Rangers FC with their sights on a place in the UEFA Cup final.

Lorenzo Amoruso played for both Fiorentina and Rangers
Lorenzo Amoruso played for both Fiorentina and Rangers ©Getty Images

ACF Fiorentina will look to go back to the future when they visit Rangers FC with their sights on a place in the UEFA Cup final.

• The Viola defeated Rangers home and away to claim their only previous European trophy – the 1960/61 UEFA Cup Winners' Cup – and how Cesare Prandelli's side would love to repeat that feat in this semi-final encounter.

• They can expect an awkward evening in Glasgow, though, where Walter Smith's men have yet to concede a goal in the competition. Rangers will be determined to earn another clean sheet as they close in on a first European final in 38 years – and one to be played just south of the border in Manchester.

• The teams' only previous meetings came in that 1960/61 UEFA Cup Winners' Cup final – the first in that tournament's history and the only one contested over two legs – and it is inevitable memories will be stirred of those games 47 years ago.

• Only ten clubs entered the inaugural UEFA Cup Winners' Cup, and Rangers beat Ferencvárosi TC of Hungary, West Germany's VfL Borussia Mönchengladbach and Wolverhampton Wanderers FC from England to make the final.

• Fiorentina won through by overcoming Switzerland's FC Luzern and NK Dinamo Zagreb, then representing the former Yugoslavia.

• The first leg of the final was held at Ibrox on 17 May 1961 when Fiorentina – coached by Hungarian legend Nándor Hidegkuti – gained a decisive advantage. Luigi Milan scored in the 12th and 88th minutes to leave Scot Symon's side – featuring future Rangers greats Jim Baxter, Eric Caldow, Ian McMillan and Jimmy Millar – with a mountain to climb in Italy.

• Milan struck again 12 minutes into the second leg in Florence ten days later, and although Scott Alexander pulled one back for Rangers on the hour, Swedish forward Kurt Hamrin scored again for Fiorentina four minutes from time to make it 2-1 at the Comunale Stadium – and 4-1 on aggregate.

• Rangers, like Fiorentina, have lifted a single European trophy in their history, capturing the UEFA Cup Winners' Cup in 1971/72.

• Yet this is the fifth UEFA competition semi-final for the Glasgow outfit, who won through to the final on three of the previous four occasions. Their semi-final record is:
1959/60 European Champion Clubs' Cup, Eintracht Frankfurt 4-12 (aggregate)
1960/61 UEFA Cup Winners' Cup, Wolverhampton Wanderers 3-1
1966/67 UEFA Cup Winners' Cup, SK Slavia Praha 2-0
1971/72 UEFA Cup Winners' Cup, FC Bayern München 3-1

• Fiorentina have played in five semi-finals before, prevailing on all but one occasion:
1956/57 European Champion Clubs' Cup, Crvena Zvezda 1-0 (aggregate)
1960/61 UEFA Cup Winners' Cup, Dinamo Zagreb 4-2
1961/62 UEFA Cup Winners' Cup, Újpesti TE 3-0
1989/90 UEFA Cup, Werder Bremen 1-1 (won on away goals)
1996/97 UEFA Cup Winners' Cup, FC Barcelona 1-3

• Including those distant encounters with Fiorentina, Rangers have played 21 games against Italian opposition in UEFA club competition and their record reads W6 D3 L12. At home they have won five, drawn two and lost three, while in Italy they have won one, drawn one and lost nine.

• Rangers became the first team from Scotland to win a match on Italian soil when they beat AS Livorno Calcio 3-2 at the Armando Picchi Stadium in the 2006/07 UEFA Cup group stage.

• Fiorentina have played four games overall against Scottish sides. Besides their May 1961 meetings with Rangers, they took on Celtic FC in the 1969/70 European Cup quarter-finals and bowed out after losing 3-0 in Glasgow, then winning 1-0 in Italy.

• Thus their record on Scottish turf is won one, lost one, while they have a 100 per cent record in Florence.

• Rangers manager Smith and defender David Weir may be tempted to renew old acquaintances in the run-up to the first leg, given that Fiorentina overcame on penalties their former club Everton FC in the Round of 16. Weir played for Everton between 1999 and 2007, while Smith was in charge at Goodison Park from 1998 to 2002.

• Smith is in his second spell at Rangers, whom he led to seven successive Scottish Premier League titles between 1991 and 1997. He left after missing out on what would have been a record tenth straight championship in 1997/98.

• Fiorentina coach Prandelli was a midfielder for US Cremonese, Atalanta BC and Juventus before coaching Atalanta, US Lecce, Hellas-Verona FC, Venezia FC, Parma FC and AS Roma. He took the reins at Fiorentina in 2005.

• Rangers are the lowest-scoring team left in the UEFA Cup. They have netted just 12 times in their 12 games in the UEFA Champions League and UEFA Cup this term, while conceding eleven. Fiorentina, by comparison, have scored 20 and shipped ten in their 12 UEFA Cup matches.

• Rangers midfielder Brahim Hemdani and Fiorentina goalkeeper Sébastian Frey were team-mates at AS Cannes during the 1997/98 campaign, although it was a season that neither player will care to remember. Cannes were relegated after finishing bottom of Ligue 1.

• Adrian Mutu has been Fiorentina's most dangerous striker in Europe, his six goals making him the fourth-most prolific marksman in the competition behind Luca Toni (FC Bayern München – 10), Pavel Pogrebnyak (FC Zenit St. Petersburg – 8) and Stefan Kiessling (Bayer 04 Leverkusen – 7). The veteran Christian Vieri is the Viola's second-highest scorer with three goals.

• Jean-Claude Darcheville, Charlie Adam and Daniel Cousin are the only players to have found the target more than once for Rangers in Europe this term, striking twice each.

• Rangers captain Barry Ferguson and fellow midfielder Kevin Thomson are suspended for the first leg following bookings in the quarter-final second leg. Lee McCulloch and Saša Papac are within a yellow card of a ban.

• Fiorentina have midfielder Marco Donadel suspended, while Riccardo Montolivo, Mutu and Tomáš Ujfaluši are all one caution away from missing the second leg.

• Rangers parachuted into the UEFA Cup after a third-placed finish in their UEFA Champions League group. They then overcame Panathinaikos FC, Werder Bremen and Sporting Clube de Portugal to reach the semis. They are the only refugees from the UEFA Champions League surviving in the UEFA Cup.

• Fiorentina's UEFA Cup journey began with a penalty shoot-out success against FC Groningen in the first round. They finished second in Group G – W2 D2 L0 – then eliminated Rosenborg BK, Everton and PSV Eindhoven en route to the last four.

• This contest could test the loyalties of former Rangers captain Lorenzo Amoruso, who spent two seasons at Fiorentina before moving to play at Ibrox between 1997 and 2003.

• Amoruso landed the Italian Cup and Italian Super Cup with Fiorentina in 1997, then captured three league crowns with Rangers and was named Scotland's Player of the Year for 2002.

• He said: "For me, it will be very difficult to support Fiorentina or Rangers in these games. Both teams have been very important in my life and even if I'm Italian and the Viola were my first team in Italy, and the first where I won a trophy, I spent six good years at Rangers. For that reason I will not take sides and will be in the middle, hoping that the best team goes through to the final."

• Amoruso added: "The two teams are very similar. Fiorentina have the quality of Adrian Mutu but their main strength is the collective game. Rangers have good players like Barry Ferguson and Kris Boyd, but above all it is their unity that works well for them and gives them the edge. I don't know who will progress but I do know I am going to see a couple of fantastic games."

• Fiorentina's Comunale Stadium was renamed in honour of former Italian Football Federation and UEFA President Artemio Franchi in 1991. Franchi died in a road accident near Siena in 1983.

• The second leg will be staged at the Artemio Franchi Stadium on 1 May, with the overall winner being the nominal away team in the UEFA Cup final at the City of Manchester Stadium on 14 May.