DAVID SMITH - Wednesday, February 23, 2011
Oguchi Onyewu and Maurice Edu will help FC Twente and Rangers look to lock up passage to the final 16 in the second leg of the the Europa League round of 32 on Thursday.
Sporting Lisbon - Glasgow Rangers (agg. 1-1)
After the weekend's humiliating loss in the Old Firm derby, Maurice Edu and Rangers will try to bounce back in Lisbon on Thursday when they visit Sporting.
The first leg in Glasgow ended with a goal to each team, putting the pressure on Walter Smith's squad to nick an away goal if they have any hopes of going through.
Both teams had rough weekends heading into this crucial tilt, suffering shut-out losses against their neighborhood rivals. Sporting were beaten by two goals in their home stadium by Portuguese leaders Benfica on Monday, prompting a flurry of questions as to the security of head coach Paulo Sergio's job.
While team officials quickly went public with the dreaded vote of confidence in their embattled frontman, the current furor only exposes a wealth of deeper issues in the club, which is typified by yet another underwhelming league campaign which sees them already more than 20 points off of the lead and having no chance whatsoever to compete in next year's Champions League.
Similarly, Rangers were humiliated at the stadium of their arch-rivals Celtic, falling on the wrong end of a 3-0 scoreline that dropped them a full eight points back in their quest for a third straight Scottish Premier League title.
A midweek announcement also came out of the Rangers camp as to the future situation on their sidelines; while Smith's departure from the post following the current season has already been known for much of the season, the club formally named his assistant and Rangers legend Ally McCoist as the successor and only the 13th manager in the history of the club.
The hosts have a nearly full squad, with midfielder Jaime Valdes and defender Leandro Grimi the main question marks after both missed last week's first leg.
Smith's squad has a number of missing pieces; defender Kirk Broadfoot and forward Andrew Little are long-term absences and will play no part, while midfielder Kyle Hutton might miss the game with illness despite traveling to Lisbon.
Additionally, midfielder Lee McCulloch and forward Steven Naismith continue to be sidelined with respective knee and hamstring problems, forward Nikica Jelavic is ineligible due to being cup-tied with Rapid Vienna, and midfielder Jamie Ness is also struggling with injury.
As a final piece to the puzzle, backup keeper Neil Alexander could be called back to Glasgow on short notice as his wife is expected to give birth.
The winner of the series will face the victor between Lille and PSV Eindhoven, which sees the teams knotted at two goals apiece ahead of their second leg in Holland.
FC Twente Enschede - Rubin Kazan (agg. 2-0)
Oguchi Onyewu and Twente will be heavy favorites to reach the round of 16, needing only to avoid a complete collapse at home on Thursday evening against Russian team Rubin Kazan.
The Dutch team put on a convincing display to win the first leg by a 2-0 scoreline in Moscow one week before, and will have little pressure on them as they try to set themselves up for a round of 16 matchup against the winner between Zenit St. Petersburg and Young Boys Bern.
While near freezing temperatures await both teams at the late evening kickoff, it will be nothing compared to the harsh conditions one week before which would have had players feeling like they were playing the first ever game on Antarctic soil.
Both teams were fortunate to avoid any serious injury on the cold artificial surface in Moscow, and Rubin will even see the return of defender Roman Sharonov and midfielder Aleksandr Ryazantsev after both were held out of last week's game as a precautionary measure.
Twente coach Michel Preud'homme also has a nearly full squad at his disposal, with defenders Nicky Kuiper and Dwight Tiendalli the only absences.
Sacha Kljestan will hope to see what has as of late become rare playing time on Thursday when Anderlecht head north to Ajax for their second leg match. The Dutch team hold a 3-0 advantage heading to their home stadium, making the likelihood of the Belgian leaders seeing the final 16 a minuscule one, at best.