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Rangers depleted for UEFA Cup clash with Fiorentina

SoccerNews in General Soccer News 1 May 2008

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Rangers manager Walter Smith had mixed injury news ahead of Thursday’s UEFA Cup semi-final, second leg clash against Fiorentina here.

The tie is finely poised following a dire 0-0 draw at Ibrox in the first leg last week.

Smith will be without veteran Scotland defender David Weir, who has a groin strain, but he is expecting midfielder Steven Davis to be fit to face the Italians.

“David won’t make Thursday night, which is a blow considering how important a player he is for us, but he does have a chance for Sunday,” he said.

“Steven has had a bit of cramping in his muscles but he will be available for Italy.”

Weir limped out of Sunday’s 3-2 defeat at Celtic Park and another veteran Christian Dailly is expected to partner Spaniard Carlos Cuellar in central defence.

Allan McGregor, Lee McCulloch, Charlie Adam, Steven Naismith, Chris Burke and DaMarcus Beasley are all out injured but Barry Ferguson and Kevin Thomson will return from European suspensions.

Rangers’s last match on Italian soil saw them beat Livorno 3-2 in October 2006, and Cuellar feels they can repeat that success.

“My feelings are very positive,” the 26-year-old told Spanish newspaper Marca.

“We were very focused throughout the whole match (the first leg) and Fiorentina didn’t have too many chances to score at Ibrox.

“I think that we have a great opportunity to reach the final. We can win and get through in Italy.”

Both Rangers and Fiorentina are going through difficult spells at the moment, with their domestic and European ambitions both in danger of blowing up in smoke.

Rangers had looked to be cruising to the Scottish Premier League title but two recent defeats to arch-rivals Celtic means they trail their city rivals by five points, although they have three games in hand.

Fiorentina are fourth in Serie A and chasing a spot in next season’s Champions League but at the weekend they saw their lead over AC Milan cut to two points after they conceded an injury time equaliser to Sampdoria.

For either side this match could provide the spark to a successful season or the beginning of a series of disappointments.

Fiorentina captain Marco Donadel is confident his team can put their weekend set-back behind them and focus on Thursday night.

“We’re thinking only about Thursday. It’s been difficult overcoming the disappointment of Sunday but it’s past now,” he said.

Donadel denied that home advantage makes La Viola the favourties to progress. In the previous round they drew at home to PSV Eindhoven before winning the away leg 2-0.

“We have to go into the match with the same mentality we had in Eindhoven, we have to give everything right now, to make Rangers believe that it will be difficult for them,” he said.

“I think the first leg showed only that they didn’t want to concede a goal and that we wanted to score one.

“The 0-0 was the result they were looking for. We’ve got a bit more guts and determination. We have to win and we’ll go for it.”

Fiorentina complained after the first leg that Rangers had played too negatively. They dominated possession but failed to break down a stubborn rearguard.

Still, Donadel thinks they can put that right in the second leg.

“It’s not easy to control the tempo of a match against a team that plays it tight. We’ll press them high up the pitch and we’ll see what we can do.

“It’s great to see how the city has got excited about this match.”

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