Hemdani return lifts Rangers for Lisbon showdown

Brahim Hemdani has handed Rangers a timely boost by declaring himself fit for tomorrow's Uefa Cup quarter-final match with Sporting Lisbon. The midfielder has been a key man in Rangers' European challenge this season, starting 13 of the club's 14 games in the Champions League and Uefa Cup despite featuring in just 11 Scottish Premier League matches.

Manager Walter Smith has used the former Marseilles captain to shield his back four and the effective tactic is likely to be employed against Sporting.

The 30-year-old has recovered from the groin injury which forced him to be substituted at half-time in the CIS Insurance Cup final, and Smith said: "Brahim Hemdani will be fit again. He has had a groin injury for the past couple of weeks which has ruled him out of the games."

Smith also confirmed Kevin Thomson will be available for the first-leg tie against the Portuguese giants having recovered from the shin injury he sustained after scoring the winner in Saturday's Old Firm game. That victory and the recreation of the spirit of the nine-in-a-row era Smith has created has put Rangers in pole position to regain the League title according to former Ibrox defender, Fraser Wishart.

The home win over Celtic on Saturday stretched Rangers' advantage over the champions to six points with a game in hand although two Old Firm matches at Parkhead still have to be played.

The chief executive of PFA Scotland, Wishart played for Rangers for a brief spell in the early 1990s when Smith – in his first spell at Ibrox – led his team to nine championships in a row. Wishart said: "It will be difficult for Celtic to win the title now. They are relying on another team doing them a favour. If Celtic win the two games at Parkhead obviously they have a chance – but I think Saturday was a big result for Rangers. They are certainly in the driving seat."

Wishart believes Smith deserves great credit. "Walter instils a belief in players. He is a very good man manager," he added. "I played in Old Firm games for him, and he had a way of relaxing you before a game but also getting you driven and determined the closer you got to kick-off.

"We had a belief that we would go out there and win the games, and there is now that belief at Rangers again.

"Football is a team game and if you don't have a great team ethic that can cause problems – and Walter has always been big on team spirit. The nine-in-a-row team had strong characters, and there is a bit of that in this team." Wishart believes Smith has already achieved much – and the title would confirm that.

"I think it will be a huge achievement for Walter to win the League for Rangers," he said. "There has been a huge turnaround in players this season. First and foremost, Walter had to make his side competitive – and he has more than done that. They were so far behind last year when he came in. Dressing-room morale was low; there was a split in the camp, and so first of all he had to solve those problems. To turn the team around to be six points ahead of Celtic with a game in hand, is a remarkable achievement."

However the Celtic winger Aiden McGeady believes Rangers could become vulnerable if they lose the first of the two remaining Old Firm derbies. But the Republic of Ireland international has warned that Celtic must claim the full 24 points on offer in their remaining games if they are to muscle their way to a third consecutive SPL title.

McGeady said: "Having two home games against Rangers gives us the chance to claw back some of the points and those matches are going to be massive now.

"If we can win the first one, it will allow us to close the gap and give us a real boost going into the next one. Those games are so vital for us now and we'll do everything we can to take full points."

Suggested Topics
News
A 1930 image of the Karl Albrecht Spiritousen and Lebensmittel shop, Essen. The shop was opened by Karl and Theo Albrecht’s mother; the brothers later founded Aldi
people
Arts and Entertainment
Flora Spencer-Longhurst as Lavinia, William Houston as Titus Andronicus and Dyfan Dwyfor as Lucius
theatreThe Shakespeare play that proved too much for more than 100 people
News
exclusivePunk icon Viv Albertine on Sid Vicious, complacent white men, and why free love led to rape
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'
filmA cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Stir crazy: Noel Fielding in 'Luxury Comedy 2: Tales from Painted Hawaii'
comedyAs ‘Luxury Comedy’ returns, Noel Fielding on why mainstream success scares him and what the future holds for 'The Boosh'
Life and Style
Flow chart: Karl Landsteiner discovered blood types in 1900, yet scientists have still not come up with an explanation for their existence
lifeAll of us have one. Yet even now, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Arts and Entertainment
'Weird Al' Yankovic, or Alfred Matthew, at the 2014 Los Angeles Film Festival Screening of
musicHis latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do our experts think he’s missed out?
Sport
Colombia's James Rodriguez celebrates one of his goals during the FIFA World Cup 2014 round of 16 match between Colombia and Uruguay at the Estadio do Maracana in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
sportColombian World Cup star completes £63m move to Spain
Arts and Entertainment
booksThe best children's books for this summer
Life and Style
News to me: family events were recorded in the personal columns
techFamily events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped that
News
news
News
i100
Travel
Fair trade: the idea of honesty boxes relies on people paying their way
travelIt seems fraught with financial risk, but the policy has its benefits
News
people
Sport
Antoine Griezmann has started two of France’s four games so far
sport
Life and Style
Child's play: letting young people roam outdoors directly contradicts the current climate
lifeHow much independence should children have?
Arts and Entertainment
Tycoons' text: Warren Buffett and Bill Gates both cite John Brookes' 'Business Adventures' as their favourite book
booksFind out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Caption competition
Caption competition

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy': A land of the outright bizarre

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy'

A land of the outright bizarre
What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

‘Weird Al’ Yankovic's latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do The Independent’s experts think he’s missed out?
Can Secret Cinema sell 80,000 'Back to the Future' tickets?

The worst kept secret in cinema

A cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Facebook: The new hatched, matched and dispatched

The new hatched, matched and dispatched

Family events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped the ‘Births, Deaths and Marriages’ announcements
Why do we have blood types?

Are you my type?

All of us have one but probably never wondered why. Yet even now, a century after blood types were discovered, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Honesty box hotels: You decide how much you pay

Honesty box hotels

Five hotels in Paris now allow guests to pay only what they think their stay was worth. It seems fraught with financial risk, but the honesty policy has its benefit
Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

The 'scroungers’ fight back

The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

Fireballs in space

Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
A Bible for billionaires

A Bible for billionaires

Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

Paranoid parenting is on the rise

And our children are suffering because of it
For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

Magna Carta Island goes on sale

Yours for a cool £4m
Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn
Alistair Carmichael: 'The UK as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts'

Alistair Carmichael: 'The UK as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts'

Meet the man who doesn't want to go down in history as the country's last Scottish Secretary