Smith holding nothing back for Uefa final as Rangers focus on title

With six games to play in 15 days in three competitions, beginning at lunchtime today at Ibrox against Dundee United, Rangers might be forgiven for having one eye already Wednesday's European final, their first in 36 years.

But their manager, Walter Smith, denies that their concentration will be affected and has faith that his team can still add the Scottish Premier League crown, the Scottish Cup as well as the Uefa Cup to the CIS Cup already in the trophy room.

And as today's match is SPL business, that is where all the attention will lie until full-time. Rangers trail Celtic by four points this morning. But they have two games and their title fate still in their own hands, so victory is vital to maintain the momentum.

A win would reduce the deficit to a point and put some pressure back on to Celtic, who host Europe-chasing Hibernian at Parkhead tomorrow. After that, Celtic will have only one match to play, at Dundee United on 22 May, while Rangers will still be facing the Uefa Cup final against Zenit St Petersburg in Manchester, three more SPL games (all away), and the Scottish Cup final, on 24 May, against Queen of the South.

"The importance of the League championship is a big thing," Smith said yesterday. "I don't think we need any warnings about not focusing on [today's] game. Everybody knows exactly what it means."

Smith insisted his team selection today will not be influenced by the imminent European final, despite today's match being Rangers' 63rd this season.

"The boys want to play," he said. "They have shown, physically, they are handling it and I think they are getting there mentally now as well.

"They can start to see the beginning of the end of the games and they are looking forward to every one of them.

"This aspect of catch-up, or an imbalance in fixtures, is just something that's there. It's a far better one than last year when we went into the last couple of games with nothing to play for."

Craig Levein's United have been one of Rangers' most difficult opponents this season, taking four points at Tannadice and losing only on penalties in the CIS Cup final.

"They've been doing it all season," Smith said. "They have been aggressive in their approach to the games and by that I mean they like to get forward.

"They've enjoyed a good season and they can turn it into an exceptionally good one by gaining a Uefa Cup place so they will be up for the game. They will be ready for this one and I would fully expect a really good game."

News
peoplePair enliven the Emirates bore-draw
Arts and Entertainment
tvPoldark episode 8, review
News
Britain's opposition Labour Party leader Ed Miliband (R) and Boris Johnson, mayor of London, talk on the Andrew Marr show in London April 26
General electionAndrew Marr forced to intervene as Boris and Miliband clash on TV
News
news
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

Confessions of a former PR man

The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

The mother of all goodbyes

Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions