Russians threaten Rangers' season

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The Independent Online

The Rangers midfielder Bert Konterman reckons the fate of his team's season will be revealed in a just a few days' time.

The Scottish season may only be eight games old and Rangers' Uefa Cup campaign yet to begin but already the pressure is on the Ibrox side.

They face the little known Russians of Anzhi Makhachkala in the Uefa Cup tomorrow in a bid to keep their European campaign alive, having bowed out of the Champions' League. And on Sunday they play hosts to Celtic, who already possess a four-point lead in the league.

Konterman said: "It's a decisive week in this season. We have got one game for the Uefa Cup and Sunday is very important as well."

Rangers' preparations for the tie, switched to the Polish capital Warsaw because of safety fears over Anzhi's stadium, close to the war-zone of neighbouring Chechnya, have not been helped by a complete lack of information about their opponents.

"It is more like a final,"Konterman said . "I know that Russian teams play as a unit and have good technical players so it will be dangerous to give them a lot of space, but that is it. The best thing for us to do will be score an early goal."

Konterman's fellow Dutch international Fernando Ricksen added: "We don't know anything about them. I just know about Rangers and for Rangers the most important thing is to stay in Europe."

Anzhi are such newcomers to the international game that not even the Russian international, Andrei Kanchelskis, knew anything about them.

The players will attempt to glean sufficient background material from the handful of tapes the Rangers backroom staff have managed to acquire.

Rangers expect to be cheered on by 500 supporters in the Legia Warsaw stadium hired by Uefa for the occasion.

* Rangers' preparations were hit by the escalation of tensions in the Middle East. They had been due to fly out to Warsaw at 2.30pm but did not board their British Airways charter plane until almost 4pm. Then the captain told them they faced a wait until a 5.05pm slot because of heavy military traffic in the skies to the east. Fog and unhelpful Brussels-based flight controllers were cited as contributory factors by the apologetic pilot.

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