Walter Smith has backed new signing Nikica Jelavic to light up the Scottish scene as Rangers return to domestic action following their midweek Champions League exploits.
The Croatian striker was ineligible for the trip to Old Trafford where the Old Firm side picked up a precious away point with a dogged performance in a 0-0 draw against Sir Alex Ferguson’s team of big name stars.
Jelavic’s appearances in the Europa League qualifiers with former club Rapid Vienna means he can not turn out for the Gers in Europe until after Christmas at least.
But after scoring on his first start against Hamilton last weekend, Smith believes Rangers can get the best out of Jelavic on the domestic front, starting with Saturday’s game against Dundee United at Ibrox.
“Nikica will be a lot fresher than a lot of people at the club so we’d hope we will get the best of him over the next few weeks,” the Rangers manager said.
“We’d much rather have had him available for the Champions League but sadly that’s not possible. That’s just something we have to accept and move on from.
“It does at least give us the benefit of having him available and ready to play when we come back from our European ties.
“I’m looking forward to seeing how Nikica does for us and in the next few games I’d expect to see him to show why we have signed him.
“He showed some good touches at the weekend but remember that was the type of game where we didn’t have a lot of possession of the ball to bring our strikers into play.”
Smith could welcome Andy Webster into his squad for the first time this season and the defender, who spent last season on loan with United after an injury-hit time at Ibrox, could be in line to face his former club.
Craig Conway, Morgaro Gomis and David Robertson are all injury doubts for Peter Houston’s side.
Old Firm rivals and league leaders Celtic could find themselves trailing Rangers by three points by the time they run out against Kilmarnock at Rugby Park on Sunday.
The Hoops have a 100 per cent start to the season and have yet to concede any goals on league duty.
And centre-back Daniel Majstorovic, who is a new addition to Neil Lennon’s backline, has set the bar high by claiming he hopes to win a domestic treble this season.
“I’m a winner and want to win titles. Our aim is to win the league first and then to win the cups. That’s our target and we aim to fulfil it,” the Swede said.
Elsewhere on Saturday, basement side St Johnstone host St Mirren at McDiarmid Park.
Aberdeen are away to Motherwell at Fir Park. After an impressive start to the season the Dons have lost their last two games and a win for Craig Brown’s side could see them leapfrog the visitors into third spot.
Hearts head to the Highlands to take on Inverness Caldedonian Thistle. The Jambos lost their first game of the season last weekend to Celtic but their squad has been boosted by the arrival of Czech international Rudi Skacel for his second spell at the club.
Hibernian are hoping the arrival of new striker Valdas Trakys makes the difference against Hamilton as John Hughes’ Easter Road side look for their first home win since March.
Fixtures (1500 BST unless otherwise stated)
Inverness CT v Hearts (1200), Hibernian v Hamilton, Motherwell v Aberdeen, Rangers v Dundee United, St Johnstone v St Mirren
Kilmarnock v Celtic (1245)
- Soccer News Like
- Be the first of your friends!