Rangers are ready to give Claudio Caniggia painkilling injections as they chase a place in the Champions' League worth around £10m.
That is the expected reward, in group-stage revenue, that will end up in the coffers of the winners of tonight's third qualifying round second leg between the Scottish side and the Turkish champions Fenerbahce. Caniggia was a surprise inclusion in the 19-man party that flew out from Glasgow on Monday. The veteran Argentinian has been out with a rib injury and Rangers will wait until the last moment before deciding if he can start up front alongside Tore Andre Flo.
"He feels good but if he plays he will have to with an injection," the Rangers manager, Dick Advocaat, said. Asked whether tonight's game is the most important of his Ibrox career, he said: "Every game is important. I don't think about £10m or £20m or whatever. I think of the game and we as football people like to win."
Rangers had an easy passage into the group stages last season, when they had no trouble getting past Zalgiris Kaunas of Lithuania and Herfolge of Denmark. Tonight, after the first leg ended in a 0-0 stalemate, the task facing them is more reminiscent of the final qualifier with the Italian side Parma in 1999.
Parma had put them out of the Uefa Cup the previous season but a sterling defensive performance in Italy saw a 2-0 first-leg lead cut to one goal by the whistle. However, Fenerbahce regard themselves as invincible at home, and Advocaat said: "If you are unbeaten at home for 18 league games, and the Turkish competition is a very strong one, it says enough about their quality. I think they are definitely as good as any team we have played before."
The first leg was shrouded in controversy after Rangers' Michael Mols was sent off for kicking Samuel Johnson in an off-the-ball incident the striker insisted had been caused by provocation from the Ghanaian. The highly-rated Italian official Pierluigi Collina is tonight's referee – he was in charge the last time Rangers were in Turkey for last season's 3-2 Champions' League group stage defeat at Galatasaray.
The home fans are renowned for their volatility and are sure to provide a hostile atmosphere. Advocaat insisted his side were experienced enough to cope and added he hoped Collina would also be sharp enough to control any on-pitch antics.
He said: "It says enough that he is the referee for tomorrow night. Hopefully he can also bring the best out of himself because it will be a very exciting match."
Meanwhile, Fenerbahce's attempts to disrupt Rangers' spying missions backfired on Sunday when they lost a local derby at Istanbulspor with an under-strength team being scrutinised by Advocaat's right-hand man Jan Wouters.Reuse content