UEFA.com works better on other browsers
For the best possible experience, we recommend using Chrome, Firefox or Microsoft Edge.

Smith looks to clear Fiorentina hurdle

Despite missing key players for their first leg against ACF Fiorentina, manager Walter Smith is confident his Rangers FC side have what it takes to reach the final.

Walter Smith's Rangers side have developed a successful formula in Europe
Walter Smith's Rangers side have developed a successful formula in Europe ©Getty Images

Despite missing a host of key players for their UEFA Cup semi-final first leg against ACF Fiorentina, Rangers FC manager Walter Smith is confident his side have what it takes to advance after developing a winning formula in the knockout stages thus far.

Clean sheet key
With Rangers facing a packed fixture schedule as they chase an unprecedented quadruple having reached the Scottish Cup final at the weekend, Smith has admitted a fourth consecutive clean sheet at home in the UEFA Cup will be key to their chances against Fiorentina. Previous visitors Panathinaikos FC, Werder Bremen and Sporting Clube de Portugal all paid the price for failing to score in Glasgow, although Rangers are deprived of nine first-team players through injury or suspension for the visit of the Italian side, including goalkeeper Allan McGregor and captain Barry Ferguson. The vastly-experienced Smith is nevertheless confident his team will rise to the occasion again, saying: "Obviously we have some key men missing but we have looked the at opposition closely and I'm sure the side I put out will perform well."

Final within sight
"In European games these days it's important to take care at home because away goals are liable to punish you," the 60-year-old added. "Throughout our UEFA Cup campaign we've had all our opening games at Ibrox and have been relatively successful. If it finishes 0-0, we would feel we could go to Florence and score ourselves. We've worked hard and, at times, enjoyed some luck to reach this stage, but now we are within sight of a European final. For a coach or player that's a very big thing in your career."

A new era
Fiorentina are also thankful to be just two matches away from a European final – a first in 18 years – after suffering financial meltdown and being demoted to the fourth tier of Italian football just six seasons ago. Now, under the steady hand of Cesare Prandelli, the reborn Viola are firing on all cylinders at home and abroad. Standing fourth in Serie A, Fiorentina's darkest days have been consigned to history and for their coach, a place in the UEFA Cup final would mark the dawn of a new era for the Tuscan club.

'Only the beginning'
However, the former Juventus player is aware Rangers will be no pushovers, explaining: "When we see how far we've come, it gives us great satisfaction. However, this is only the beginning. We have come a long way and our performances in the UEFA Cup have made us grow in confidence. But we must stay focused because we have won nothing yet."

'Extra responsibility'
Fiorentina will give influential defender Tomáš Ujfaluši – who suffered a thigh strain in the weekend win against US Città di Palermo – until the last minute to prove his fitness. Prandelli is conscious of his opponents' severe injury problems but insists his players cannot afford to be complacent, adding: "I know they have some players injured, but I'm sure they'll still be strong. Rangers are a good team. They don't just defend and play long passes, they move the ball around then strike on the counterattack. We're proud to be the last Italian club still in European competition, but we also have an extra responsibility."