Smith wants Rangers to shake off Manchester misery

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The Independent Football

Walter Smith, the Rangers manager, is hoping a hectic fixture schedule will actually work in his side's favour as they attempt to wrest the Scottish Premier League title from Celtic's grasp over the next week.

Smith admits his players are still suffering from the psychological blow of losing to Zenit St Petersburg in the Uefa Cup final on Wednesday. But, with a domestic treble still a possibility, the outcome of today's League match at Motherwell will have a major bearing on the destination of the title.

Smith is pleased his players will have had little time to dwell on the defeat in Manchester. "We can't hide the disappointment that we feel at losing a European final and having to play again early on a Saturday after a Wednesday night may well be a good thing for us," he said.

"The importance of the fixture itself may take away a little bit of the disappointment. Everybody here faces a big test to get themselves lifted and get through what is an unusual circumstance for any team – playing three important League games in such a short space of time and all of them away from home.

"It's a difficult task and one that not many teams are asked to do. Every one of us has a job to get on with. We suffered a disappointment the other night and we know we have to get over that and adjust to an end to a season that very few teams have had to overcome."

Smith knows his players are still hurting after missing out on the club's first European trophy since 1972 but insists they have no choice but to pick themselves up for the end of the SPL campaign and a Scottish Cup final. "The stakes are high for us and we know we need a tremendous reaction from all the players if we are to achieve," said Smith, whose side have already played 64 games this season.

"There is a bit more tension because the championship is coming to a close and it's going to be a tight one but apart from that we will just try to have the same focus as we have had all season. We just have to hope that we get the proper reaction from them. The team this season has given us confidence that will be the case."