Updated Thursday, 10th April 2008
Contrasting emotions ahead of tonight's UEFA Cup game in Portugal with Rangers looking forward and Sporting Lisbon harking back to last week's game.
Tonight sees Rangers take on Sporting Lisbon in the second leg of their UEFA Cup quarter-final. Manager Walter Smith included Carlos Cuellar in the squad which travelled to Portugal after he had recovered from a flu bug. There will have to be some changes in the side as centre-back David Weir will be missing through suspension which could see Christian Dailly moving back into defence. It is expected that Daniel Cousin will play some part in the game after recovering from a broken jaw but Charlie Adam is still unavailable with a knee injury. Smith's players will have to live up to the expectations of their travelling fans as Rangers bid to reach the semi-finals for the first time. The Rangers manager knows the fans are starting to look at next month's final in Manchester as a given. 90 minutes of football is all that now stands between Rangers and a last-four meeting with Fiorentina or PSV Eindhoven. Last week saw tonight's opponents record goalless draw at Ibrox and Smith is keen to see how his team reacts tonight in the pressure cooker of the Jose Alvalade Stadium. He said: "There's a growing expectation from everyone at the club, including the management and the players. Hopefully we can match that in terms of the supporters having an expectation. That's something the team has to strive to match. We've got a new squad so we don't really know how we'll react but we have been reacting very well in the competitions that we're in at the present moment and we hope that continues. We just have to wait and see. We've no pedigree as a team so we'll have to try to forge one."
Meanwhile, Sporting Lisbon coach Paulo Bento has hit out at Rangers for being too aggressive in last week's game. His pre-match statements could be considered as plea for a strong performance from tonight's referee. Liedson and skipper Joao Moutinho were both stretchered off at Ibrox but were back in action within minutes. Bento insists there was no simulation on the part of his players and is hoping for a less aggressive approach from their visitors. The injured pair were jeered by Ibrox fans, who felt both players had indulged in simulation. Bento said: "Rangers are an aggressive team. We felt it in the first minutes at Glasgow. Two important players suffered heavy tackles. It's up the referee to do his job - we just hope we can keep our own control. You just have to look at the pictures. Those two tackles were not over-reaction from our players - if anything, it was over-tackling on the behalf of the Rangers players." Defender Leandro Grimi back his manager's views when he said: "Rangers are a tough, rough team but I hope they play fair and there will be no problems. But we just have to concentrate on how Sporting will play and not worry about the others. If you were to look at our legs after the match you would notice that we were not over-reacting or diving. Let's hope things go better on Thursday night."
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