Rangers pin hopes on swift Ball recovery

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The Independent Online

Rangers are hopeful that Michael Ball will recover from a foot injury in time to play against AZ Alkmaar in tonight's Uefa Cup tie. Both teams have won all their Group F matches so far, although Rangers are ahead on goal difference.

Rangers are hopeful that Michael Ball will recover from a foot injury in time to play against AZ Alkmaar in tonight's Uefa Cup tie. Both teams have won all their Group F matches so far, although Rangers are ahead on goal difference.

Gregory Vignal will miss the game with a groin problem and possible deputies for him - Paolo Vanoli (calf) and Maurice Ross (thigh) - are also unfit. That has left the Rangers manager, Alex McLeish, with just the 19-year-old Steven Smith, who only made his debut on Sunday, as a fit alternative to the former England international Ball.

Rangers will also be without their strikers Steven Thompson (ankle) and Shota Arveladze (knee). The midfielder Alex Rae is available in the Uefa Cup for the first time, having served a five-match ban for kicking a CSKA Moscow player in the head in a Champions' League qualifier in August.

The Scottish Football Association disciplinary committee will discuss an incident, which occurred during the Old Firm derby on 20 November - in which Nacho Novo's studs landed on Stephen Pearson's neck - at their next meeting on 14 December. The Rangers striker has admitted catching the Celtic midfielder, but said yesterday: "I did not mean to hit him, I never meant anything bad."

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