Football: Red tape ties up Reds: Phil Shaw looks at the British managers who are awaiting a change in their clubs' form and fortunes

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GRAEME SOUNESS and Trevor Francis, who embraced Europe in the footballing sense when Maastricht still meant a humdrum Dutch team, face widely differing tests of their management skills as they lead Liverpool and Sheffield Wednesday into continental competition tonight.

Souness has run into red tape that would do Brussels proud. Each side is allowed two 'assimilated' players - who must have played under the aegis of their club's national association for an uninterrupted five years, including three years at youth level - and three 'foreigners'. Uefa yesterday placed Ian Rush in the former category, and Ronnie Whelan, despite 14 years' service, in the latter.

The ruling means Souness's options are reduced for the Cup-Winners' Cup visit of Apollon Limassol, of Cyprus. Steve Nicol, Jan Molby and Whelan will be his 'foreigners', whereas if the Irishman had been deemed 'assimilated' he could have also named Ronny Rosenthal.

Neither Souness nor Francis, former Sampdoria and Rangers team-mates who both hold European Cup-winners' medals, has enjoyed an auspicious start to the domestic campaign. Liverpool's form and their visitors' exploits suggest that the evening may not offer them the anticipated respite.

A year ago, Apollon overturned a 2-0 deficit against the Romanian champions, Universitea Craiova, to win 3-2 overall. They then went out on a 5-1 aggregate to Red Star Belgrade, conceding late goals to the holders in each match. With the game live on television, Souness cannot expect the Cypriots to be intimidated by the Anfield atmosphere. An away goal could induce a panic attack, but over the two legs Liverpool should be too strong.

When Wednesday last competed in Europe, in the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup 29 years ago, JFK was still US president, the Beatles were lovable mop-tops and Francis had not quite started a playing career which may resume with a rare starting role at home to Spora Luxembourg in the UEFA Cup.

With David Hirst and Mark Bright unavailable, Francis will again use Paul Warhurst up front and is to choose between himself, the unsettled Nigel Jemson and two 21-year-olds who have never scored for Wednesday, Gordon Watson and David Johnson, as the converted centre-back's partner.

'I know it's a big night for the fans, but I hope they don't expect too much,' Francis said. He expects Spora to go for five at the back and man-marking - the very tactics he is practised in undermining.

Scotland's recent record in European club football is not much better than that of Luxembourg or Cyprus. Rangers, who face Lyngby, should help rectify that situation in their 150th Euro match. The Danes lost to Wrexham two years ago, and Rangers may have Trevor Steven back after injury.

Pele comes to Belfast - Marseille's Abedi Pele, that is, at Glentoran - while Cardiff fly the Football League flag and the Welsh dragon against Admira Wacker in Austria. David Platt, who would 'rather play for Crewe Gasworks' than sit out another game, returns to the Fiat works team, also known as Juventus, against Anorthosis, of Famagusta.