Rangers face uphill struggle

Problems mount for the Scots in the Champions' League, writes Glenn Moore
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The Independent Online
Rangers' impending collision with the Scottish Football Association will gain momentum if, as expected, they fail to beat Juventus in the Champions' League tonight.

The Scottish champions believe they are fatally handicapped in Europe by Uefa's "three foreigners" ruling and are determined to get it overturned. However, the SFA, anxious that their game is not swamped by foreign imports, are equally keen to maintain it.

The recent judgement in the Marc Bosman case has sharpened positions. Donald Finlay, the vice-chairman of Rangers, has written to the European Commission, asking it to uphold the decision of the European Court of Justice to outlaw the Uefa limitation. If necessary, Rangers may even take legal action. The SFA, meanwhile, are one of the main lobbyists attempting to get the verdict rejected.

Rangers' believe that there are simply not enough quality players of Scottish extraction to sustain a Champions' League challenge. Those that are about, like Gary McAllister, are difficult to prise away from their clubs.

Even more worrying is the lack of promising young players, notwithstanding the success of Scotland's Under-21 and youth sides. Finlay, when pressed last week about his own club's emerging talent, named Charlie Miller, then lapsed into silence.

Denis Law, a former Scottish international and a member of Manchester United's European Cup-winning squad, said yesterday: "You wonder where the young players are. Either the talent is not there, or they are not prepared to wait for it. There never used to be lots of foreign players in Scotland - or English ones. Instead, the top English sides - United, Liverpool, Tottenham - always had two or three Scots. But now, after McAllister and Colin Hendry, you are struggling to think of any.

"The foreigners' rule is a problem - it is difficult to play one team in the league and another in Europe. It also affects English clubs. You look at the matches involving British teams at the moment and we are not on the same planet."

Rangers' problem with the ruling has been highlighted by selection problems for tonight. With Gordon Durie, Alan McLaren and Alex Cleland suspended, and David Robertson injured, they may be forced to play Stuart McCall and John Brown, neither of whom are fully fit, as well as the inexperienced Neil Murray.

Paul Gascoigne is back - but so is Gianluca Vialli for Juventus. Juve won the first meeting in Turin 4-1 without Vialli, so Walter Smith's team will hardly be encouraged by their manager's assertion yesterday that Vialli "is their main influence, the player who creates things".

If Rangers fail to win, they will be left needing to beat Borussia Dortmund in Germany and Steaua Bucharest at home - plus helpful results elsewhere - to qualify.

Celtic, who - as their fans regularly remind Rangers - won the European Cup with 11 Scotsmen, also have a crucial match this week. They host Paris St Germain in the European Cup-Winners' Cup tomorrow, having lost the first leg 1-0.

Failure at both Ibrox and Parkhead will almost certainly leave Scotland, once again, out of Europe before Christmas. Apart from the lawyers and lobbyists, that is.

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