Game On Center Circle 10pm Kick off

According to Goalzz.com the game will be shown on Aljazeera 5.

This tie is very open tie and plenty to play for in the 2nd leg. It’s a big ask to go there and win, something we have not been able to accomplish over the past three years.

Come along soak up the atmosphere and enjoy the Game.

RANGERS cannot dare contemplate survival in the Europa League without first asking themselves a question: where’s a goal going to come from?

They beat Sporting Lisbon away in April 2008, but haven’t managed a winning away strike against anyone in Europe in the 34 months since.

Sporting Lisbon aren’t likely to be accused of being impenetrable. The team currently sitting third in the Portuguese league have conceded at least one goal in each of the last five games and managed only a single clean sheet in the last seven. Only one of the top 11 teams in the Liga Sagres has a worse record. Sporting have conceded 24 goals in 20 league games (the leaders, Porto, have lost only seven). Those are statistics which offer some encouragement to Rangers, as does the fact Sporting have not won in their last five attempts. On Monday night, Benfica scored twice against them despite playing more than half the match with 10 men.

Paulo Sergio’s side faces disruption at the back given that one of their key central defenders, club captain Daniel Carrico, is banned. The Argentine Marco Torsiglieri is an able and experienced replacement but Carrico is a major influence and will be missed.

That would all be encouraging for Walter Smith were it not for the fact the Rangers manager arrived in Lisbon yesterday with only 18 players, none of whom stood out as an obvious goalscorer. Since the Ibrox side qualified for the last 32, he has lost Kenny Miller in the transfer window and Steven Naismith to injury. Europa League ineligibility meant he never had Nikica Jelavic in the first place.

All the players available to Smith tonight have only two European goals between them this season, scored by Maurice Edu and Steven Whittaker against Valencia and Sporting respectively. The pair of them are among a handful of players – Kyle Lafferty, El-Hadji Diouf, Steven Davis, Vladmir Weiss – who deliver a goal now and again. None is a consistent or prolific finisher.

Rangers did open up Sporting in last week’s first leg with moves created by players who are all available tonight. Weiss skinned a couple of defenders and flashed an inviting ball across goal, although there was no taker. Lafferty sent a strong header narrowly wide from a right-wing Whittaker cross. There was a less convincing header from him later, when the chance was even better from a Weiss cross from the left. Rangers went straight down the middle on one occasion, with Richard Foster’s long ball flicked on by Lafferty for Whittaker to hit a shot which forced a save.

Rangers’ goal in the 1-1 first leg draw was the sort of bread-and-butter move they could score in their sleep: a Weiss corner and a Whittaker header in the six-yard box. If Sporting are vulnerable to losing a goal like that, Rangers will be alive in the tie for as long as Allan McGregor preserves a clean sheet.

Weiss has been unwell this week but while Smith did not start him against Celtic on Sunday he will be tempted to put him in against the Portuguese again after the relative success he enjoyed in the first leg. Sporting were troubled by his runs and deliveries from the wings and Rangers would have fancied Jelavic to score one or two of the chances which came Lafferty’s way.

What the manager needs is more from Lafferty and Diouf. The former is awkward and was unconvincing as the lone frontman last week, yet he is unpredictable and may unsettle Anderson Polga and Torsiglieri, forcing an error. A Rangers goal will come for Diouf sooner or later. He will surely make some back page headlines for his football alone before returning to England in May.

Rangers aren’t as reliable defensively as they were when frustrating Sporting three years ago, when they essentially reached the Uefa Cup final on the back of snuffing out one set of strikers after another. Davie Weir – who is doubtful with food poisoning – was three years younger, though, and his partnership with Carlos Cuellar then was more convincing than his one with Madjid Bougherra now.

Nor do they have forwards as effective as Daniel Cousin, Jean-Claude Darcheville and Nacho Novo, who all weighed in during 2007-08. But one trait perhaps endures. Rangers pulled off one stubborn success after another in Europe three years ago. If they can find a goal tonight they’ll have a foothold against an unremarkable opponent.

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Posted February 24, 2011 by wtweedley in Uncategorized

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