Ibrox failure not an option

Phil Gordon says that defeat of Monaco is the least Advocaat requires
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There is a thin blue line between success and failure for those who immerse themselves in Rangers. Dick Advocaat will be hoping that on Tuesday night he does not permanently cross it.

There is a thin blue line between success and failure for those who immerse themselves in Rangers. Dick Advocaat will be hoping that on Tuesday night he does not permanently cross it.

Few would have believed a few weeks ago, when Rangers defeated Monaco 1-0 in the Stade Louis II, that the return meeting of the clubs would see Rangers still seeking to confirm their passage into the next phase. Yet Advocaat's players have gathered just one point from three subsequent Group D games and the revitalised French champions come to Glasgow with the same objective in mind.

They know a thing or two about gambling in Monte Carlo, but possibly even the principality's high-rollers might baulk at the prospect facing Advocaat. Everything the Dutchman has piled up in his two years at Ibrox is riding on this last throw of the dice. Rangers' present problems in the Scottish Premier League would be a malaise in most places, but, as his predecessor, Walter Smith, once pointed out: "You are three defeats away from a crisis at Rangers or Celtic." Handing the domestic initiative over to Celtic may still be a more heinous crime in the eyes of the fans than failing to fulfil the European ambitions, but to combine the two could prove fatal.

"Four weeks ago I was a genius," Advocaat said on Friday, in reference to the praise heaped on him for winning in Monaco. "Now there are people who want to kill me."

Rangers can do nothing about their fourth position in the League for at least another week, but beating Monaco would bring qualification and restore a sense of belief to an Ibrox which is reeling from their bleak October. The fall-out from Kilmarnock's 3-0 humiliation of the Scottish champions last weekend did not end with the rancour unleashed from the Ibrox stands. Lorenzo Amoruso was stripped of his captaincy just three days later in the most public fashion, which prompted Terry Butcher - who was captain of Rangers in the late 1980s - to claim Advocaat had humiliated the Italian.

"If Amoruso was not playing well, he should have been dropped," said Butcher, "but you don't play him and take away his captaincy - that sends out the wrong sort of signals." The former England captain feels Advocaat gave into the need for a scapegoat. "Amoruso is the focus of supporters' criticism but there are plenty of others who should not be able to look in the mirror."

The rumours of dressing-room dissent are something Advocaat wants to brush away for now. "Players are human," he said before the defeat to Stürm Graz a fortnight ago in Austria. "There are some colleagues they will like better than others."

The root of Rangers' troubles over the last month has been their spiralling injury list which saw 10 internationals missing from the game in Graz. Yet Advocaat's wistful analysis of the Monaco tie suggests an anxiety over Tuesday night. The what-might-have-beens are clouding his horizon. "People say it is good to have our destiny in our hands with a last match at home," said the Dutchman. "But if we had all the right players when we faced Galatasaray at Ibrox four weeks ago, we would have qualified already. We had our best team out when we beat Stürm Graz 5-0 here and again when we won in Monaco. Since then, it has not been hard to see the problem."

Advocaat is hoping that Giovanni van Bronckhorst, the match-winner in Monaco, will have overcome his groin injury. "Monaco have very dangerous forwards, in Marco Simone, Shabani Nonda and Marcello Gallardo," cautioned Advocaat. "We have to be as well organised as we were in Monaco and not give them space."

A draw would kill Rangers' hopes. "I think, even with the injuries, we have the quality to do it," said Advocaat, before musing: "Maybe the expectations are too high in Scotland." The price of failure can be equally exorbitant.

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