Smith wants Rangers to dig deep

17 February 2011 08:00

Rangers manager Walter Smith has told his players they have no choice but to cope with three massive games in eight days.

The Scottish champions host Sporting Lisbon in the last 32 of the Europa League on Thursday night, before making the trip to the east end of Glasgow to face Celtic in a hugely important Clydesdale Bank Premier League clash on Sunday. Smith's men then travel to Portugal for the second leg of their European clash.

"You always have to face that with the European games," he said. "We faced big games in the first half of the season after playing in the Champions League so we've got to face up to it. If you're going to be successful, it's something you have to try to overcome."

Rangers overcame Sporting en route to the UEFA Cup final in 2008 but significant changes in personnel have taken place since that memorable win.

"We've not got as set a first 11 just now as we had before." said Smith. "Nikica Jelavic is out, we've lost Lee McCulloch to injury.

"Jelavic is in the process of getting to full fitness anyway and we've had to play for the majority of the season without him. McCulloch has arguably been our best player this season so we will miss him.

"We have had three new players come into the team in the January transfer window and we'll have to integrate them into our group, never mind our team.

"We've not had the luxury overall this season of having a settled 11 but we're managing and trying to handle the situation as best we can at the moment."

However, Smith, who hinted at a more offensive approach than the one used in the Champions League, is confident he has options to fill the void left by the ineligible Jelavic.

Smith said: "We have the likes of Kyle Lafferty and El-Hadji Diouf who can both play as strikers and lone strikers or together if necessary. Steven Naismith is another one, although there is an element of doubt over his overall fitness."

Source: PA