Football: English recruits the key for Brady: Phil Shaw on the prospects for Celtic, Rangers, Airdrie and Hearts in Europe tonight

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The Independent Online
CELTIC go into tonight's Uefa Cup first round, second leg match against Cologne at Parkhead looking to two Englishmen, Andy Payton and Stuart Slater, to extend their participation in Europe and with a rebuke from Liam Brady ringing in their ears.

While Rangers, the Scottish champions, defend a 2-0 lead over Lyngby in Copenhagen in the European Cup, Celtic trail the Germans by the same score. Already four points behind Rangers in the League and out of the Skol Cup, they lost for the fourth time in five games at home to Partick Thistle on Saturday.

This prompted Brady, their manager of 15 months, to bemoan 'a basic lack of professionalism' by his players. It also reopened the debate over whether Celtic, who 25 years ago became the first British club to win Europe's premier prize, retain the capacity to challenge the ascendancy of their Old Firm rivals.

All of which makes the match against Cologne the most important of Brady's reign. Restricted by the rules to three non-Scots, he has omitted Irish goalkeeper Pat Bonner in favour of Gordon Marshall in order to accommodate Payton and Slater, his expensive early-season signings from Middlesbrough and West Ham.

'Goals are our priority,' Brady explained yesterday, 'so I have no alternative.' Tony Mowbray, a mainstay in some otherwise abject defensive displays, is his other 'foreigner'. Encouragingly for Celtic, Pierre Littbarski, the veteran playmaker whose promptings caused Marshall such grief in Cologne, is struggling to be fit.

In Denmark, Rangers are able to recall their defender Dave McPherson after injury. Archie Knox, their assistant manager, said that the memory of last season's first-round defeat by Czechoslovak opposition 'still rankles', adding: 'Having let ourselves down in the away leg on that occasion, we certainly don't intend to sit back and defend our lead.'

Lyngby's morale can hardly have been helped by reports yesterday that their Nigerian defender Emika Ezeugo intends to sue them for pounds 100,000 in back wages.

In the Cup-Winners' Cup, Airdrieonians take a 1-0 deficit from spartan Lanarkshire to Sparta Prague. Alex MacDonald's side qualified for Europe by winning a twice-drawn Cup semi-final on penalties and losing the final to Rangers, but only victory, which would represent the finest result in their 114-year history, will suffice this time.

John Martin, the Airdrie keeper, is doubtful because of a strained neck. Phil Burns, English-born and signed for pounds 30,000 from Slough last year, stands by for a testing debut.

Heart of Midlothian, beaten 1-0 at Airdrie on Saturday and by the same score in their Uefa Cup away leg against Slavia Prague, have the best chance of progress other than Rangers. Joe Jordan will select from 18 players, including Scott Crabbe, the forward he is trying to sell to Dundee United. John Robertson, Hearts' international striker, hopes to return after two weeks out with a torn hamstring.