Advocaat dares to look beyond Lithuanians

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The Independent Online

Fame can bring unwanted attention as well as rewards, so Rangers will be ready to use some muscle at Ibrox tonight to protect their growing European reputation.

Fame can bring unwanted attention as well as rewards, so Rangers will be ready to use some muscle at Ibrox tonight to protect their growing European reputation.

Their manager, Dick Advocaat, has warned his players that last season's Champions' League exploits will only earn a healthy disrespect from the Lithuanian champions Zalgiris Kaunas in the second qualifying round, first leg, at Ibrox. The Scottish champions are expected, not least by Advocaat himself, to beat Zalgiris to set up a meeting with Herfolge of Denmark in the next round, from which passage into the lucrative group stage of the competition will be expected.

A year ago, Rangers had to negotiate an arduous route to the Champions' League, with Parma their prime victims.

Advocaat expects that his team's defeat of one of Serie A's most glamorous sides, and the victories over PSV Eindhoven in the group stage, will arouse plenty of motivation among the Lithuanians. "They are a very physical side and I expect they will try to intimidate us,' he said. "There is no point in looking to the referee - we have to protect ourselves."

Advocaat's assessment of Zalgiris is based on their 4-0 victory of the Bosnian champions NK Brotnjo earlier this month in the first qualifying round, which the Dutchman witnessed. Zalgiris qualified despite losing the return leg 3-0 and while that may indicate they do not travel well, Advocaat does not expect them to travel light.

"They will want to prove something," he said. "There is now much more pressure on us. A year ago, the expectation was that Parma would beat us but now, as far as our fans are concerned, it's the other way round. Other teams also look at us differently."

The Zalgiris coach, Senderis Girsovicius, said: "It is a great honour to be playing a team as strong as Rangers. They are well known in Europe."

Despite the absence of Lorenzo Amoruso and the Turkish midfielder Tugay with ankle injuries and the Dutch Euro 2000 trio Giovanni van Bronckhorst, Arthur Numan and Bert Konterman, the Rangers manager expects his side to have too much in reserve for Zalgiris.

"Quality wise, we have much the better team and we hope to score the goals which will finish the tie here," he said. That indicates that even the pragmatic Dutchman is looking beyond next Wednesday's return leg and towards a meeting with Denmark's surprise champions, Herfolge, who are coached by former Arsenal player, John Jensen.

Herfolge, a town of not much more than 3,000 people, has decided to stage their Champions' League debut at their own 3,500-seat stadium instead of Copenhagen's 41,000 Parken Stadium as Uefa, and Rangers, had hoped. If the Scots qualify, only 300 of their fans will receive tickets for the first leg on 9 Aug, with the return at Ibrox a fortnight later.

Rangers (possible): Klos; Nicholson, Ritchie, Moore, Vidmar; Kanchelskis, Ferguson, Albertz, McCann; Wallace, Dodds.

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