Rangers reliant on Ferguson the record-breaker

The Rangers manager Walter Smith admits the experience of Barry Ferguson will be crucial against Werder Bremen tonight as the Ibrox captain prepares to write his name into the history books.

The visit of the Bundesliga side in the first leg of the last 16 of the Uefa Cup will mark Ferguson's 77th appearance in European competition – more than any other Scottish footballer.

That will take him past Dundee United legend Dave Narey's record, which Ferguson equalled against Panathinaikos last month. The 30-year-old midfielder will be called upon to lead by example once again tonight and Smith insisted his captain deserves a large chunk of the credit for keeping Rangers battling on four fronts this campaign.

"He has been terrific for us over the whole season, not just the European games," Smith said. "He has reached a remarkable level of consistency considering he has hardly missed a game for us this season. It's a big ask for him to keep it going but that's what we are having to do at the present moment.

"We have a lot of games coming up and, as the games come along, they gain in importance all the time.

"I'm looking forward to having him in his best form as he has been for the last few games where he has played exceptionally well. He has helped everybody and he is not fazed by the fact that he is going into a big European game. He has seen it and done it.

"It's a nice reward for him to know he has played more games than any other Rangers player in Europe."

Smith believes Rangers' extended run in Europe is also of benefit to the younger, less experienced players within his ranks. He added: "It's a great experience for them, there is no doubt about it. It's different from the league games and they know that. You have to have a good mentality.

"In the very early stages, Kirk Broadfoot played away from home against Zeta. He handled that extremely well and has never been fazed about being asked to come into the team and play. So he is one, although inexperienced in European games, who has shown it hasn't affected him at all."

Having recovered from the disappointment of their Champions League exit, Smith confirmed Rangers are fully focused on progressing as far as possible in the Uefa Cup.

He said: "The first tie is maybe a slightly awkward one in terms of motivation because you are dropping down from the Champions League to the Uefa Cup.

"But, once you are over that first tie and you realise the standard of teams that are in the Uefa Cup, you realise the importance of it. We take that on board and hopefully we can raise our game, as we had to do against Stuttgart, to get the result we are looking for."

Rangers faced the Bundesliga champions in the Champions League earlier this season – winning at home and losing in Germany – and Smith predicted Werder Bremen will be more difficult to overcome.

He said: "We know we face a slightly tougher task, if anything, against Bremen than Stuttgart. But it does give us a good indication of the level we have to play at if we hope to get through."

Rangers will be without Jean-Claude Darcheville tonight. The striker completes a three-match European suspension, and his absence could pave the way for the introduction of Daniel Cousin, who remains at Ibrox for the remainder of the season after Fifa blocked a proposed move to Fulham.

Smith has no fresh injuries to contend with, and Werder Bremen's fitness problems were clearing up yesterday as midfield threat Diego promised to attack at Ibrox.

Strikers Ivan Klasnic and Hugo Almeida both arrived in Glasgow as members of a 21-man squad. Klasnic was struggling with a thigh strain and Almeida was battling flu earlier in the week. However, both players are in contention to face Rangers at Ibrox.

Brazilian goalscoring midfielder Diego said: "We want to dominate the game and score a goal. It's important we play our own game and don't allow ourselves to become entangled in Rangers' style of play. To play the first leg away from home is good for us. We won't start off with a defensive attitude in Scotland."

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