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Page last updated at 02:11 GMT, Tuesday, 13 May 2008 03:11 UK

Rangers player profiles

UEFA CUP FINAL
Venue: City of Manchester Stadium Date: Wed 14 May Kick-off: 1945 BST
Coverage: Live commentary on BBC Radio 5 Live and BBC Radio Scotland, full text coverage on BBC Sport website

By Keir Murray

Rangers face Zenit St Petersburg in the Uefa Cup final in Manchester on Wednesday. It is their first European final for 36 years.

There have been more skilful groups of players at Ibrox since the Cup-Winners' Cup win in 1972, but the current side possess a blend of ingredients that makes them very hard to beat.

Team spirit, a tremendous will to win, the ability to soak up incessant pressure, 12 shut-outs in 18 European matches, pace on the break and tactical nous have propelled Walter Smith's men to the cusp of a quadruple.

Here we take a look at the Rangers players likely to feature in the match against Dick Advocaat's Russian outfit.

NEIL ALEXANDER

Neil Alexander
Alexander has proved to be an able deputy for Allan McGregor

A Scotland international, Alexander signed for Rangers in January from Ipswich. His big chance came when regular number one Allan McGregor injured an ankle in a league match at Celtic Park on 16 April.

He won the Rangers fans over with a superb performance in the second leg of the semi-final against Fiorentina. Alexander may not have the presence of McGregor, but having come through two penalty shoot-outs with Rangers in recent weeks, his confidence will be high.

KIRK BROADFOOT

Kirk Broadfoot
Broadfoot has established himself at right-back

Broadfoot signed from St Mirren last summer and was seen by many as a squad player. However, with the departure of Alan Hutton to Spurs at the start of the year, the centre-half grabbed the chance of filling the right-back slot.

His distribution lets him down at times, but with guidance from David Weir at the back he has shown tremendous determination to stay in the team he supported as a boy.

DAVID WEIR

David Weir
Just turned 38, Weir has played over 60 matches this season

What Weir lacks in pace, he makes up for with his vast experience and skill in reading the game. He is rarely caught out of position, offers a threat at set pieces and, alongside Carlos Cuellar, enjoys the manager's defensive tactic, dubbed "Wattennacio"!

He will have to be at his sharpest to repel the darting runs of Andrei Arshavin but should have adequate cover with Brahim Hemdani or Kevin Thomson in front of the back four.

CARLOS CUELLAR

Had Walter Smith not signed Cuellar from Osasuna last July, it is hard to imagine that the team would be chasing four trophies.

The big Spaniard's timing in the tackle is exquisite, he has the pace to recover when very occasionally caught out of position, he is dominant in the air and, like all classy defenders, never looks flustered.

Cuellar was voted the Scottish Football Writers' Player of the Year.

SASA PAPAC

Sasa Papac
The Bosnian left-back has performed steadily this season

At first, Rangers fans were sceptical that a centre-back like Papac could replace Stevie Smith when the young left-back dropped out the team through a series of injuries.

But the Bosnian has been dependable in the Rangers back four, often keeping it simple and clearing his lines.

Never one to venture too far forward like previous Ibrox left-backs Arthur Numan or Giovanni van Bronckhorst, nevertheless Papac will prove to be a formidable opponent for Igor Denisov.

CHRISTIAN DAILLY

Christian Dailly
Dailly has brought power and experience to the Rangers team

Signed from West Ham in January until the end of the season, it has been quite a transformation for Dailly to go from struggling in the Hammers' reserves to playing in the latter stages of European competition.

Dailly is approaching the "veteran" stage of his career, but Smith knew of Dailly's talents from his time as Scotland coach and will be pleased with the level of performance that the versatile defender/midfielder has returned.

STEVEN WHITTAKER

Steven Whittaker
Since signing from Hibs, Whittaker has adapted well to life at Ibrox

Whittaker offers Rangers athleticism down the right flank. He is powerful in the tackle, tracks the runs from opposing midfielders and, as witnessed in Lisbon, has the pace to hurt teams on the break.

The former Hibs player can also play on either side of the defence but offers the team better balance when featuring on the right.

BARRY FERGUSON

If Rangers are to win the Uefa Cup, Ferguson must play well. He is the key player in the team, dictating the tempo and direction of the play.

With Kevin Thomson or Brahim Hemdani sitting in midfield, look out for the Rangers captain pushing into the Zenit box.

If Smith's men are a goal down with the clock ticking down, it will be Ferguson who demands the last ounce of effort from his team-mates.

Of course, nothing Ferguson does will surprise Dick Advocaat, for it was the Dutch coach who made the young midfielder a fixture in his side.

KEVIN THOMSON

Thomson's role is not the most glamorous or eye-catching. He covers a large area of the pitch, breaking down attacks and closing down space.

Being left-footed, Thomson brings a balance to the midfield when playing with Ferguson and Steve Davis. Though a popular player with Smith, he may find himself squeezed out of the starting 11 if the manager opts for the experience of Hemdani - and if Lee McCulloch is match fit.

STEVE DAVIS

Steve Davis
Davis' love of the club shows in his enthusiastic midfield displays

His was a signing that excited the Rangers supporters. Davis grew up a Rangers fan and his energetic performances have brought comparisons with another diminutive Ibrox midfielder, Stuart McCall.

Smith will want Davis to push forward in support of the lone striker as quickly as possible when there is the scope to break.

The Irishman proved his ability in this role in the second leg of the quarter-final tie against Sporting Lisbon.

BRAHIM HEMDANI

Brahim Hemdani
Hemdani is a key player for Rangers in Europe

Hemdani sees relatively more European football action with Rangers than the domestic game, having played in 17 of the club's 18 matches in continental competition this season.

The former Marseille skipper's style is suited to matches in the Champions League and Uefa Cup where retention of the ball is of paramount importance.

The French-Algerian's form has wobbled in recent weeks, but the quiet man of the Rangers team is likely to be given the nod by Smith for the final.

LEE McCULLOCH

Lee McCulloch
The Scotland midfielder has recovered from injury and may feature

McCulloch's season looked to be over when he broke a bone in his foot in April. It would have been a cruel blow for the player who can operate in left midfield or in a more advanced position.

If the Scotland international can prove his readiness for the final, his greatest asset will be supplying knock-downs to the main striker from long diagonal balls from the right side of midfield.

CHARLIE ADAM

Charlie Adam
Adam is unlikely to start the match but may feature if McCulloch is unfit

Adam, on the left side of midfield, has made eight starts and three substitute appearances for Rangers in Europe in this long campaign. He has scored two goals.

If he takes to the field, Vyacheslav Malafeev would do well to look out for Adam's long-range shots. The pace of Zenit suggests that Adam would struggle to contain the Russians' advances.

JEAN-CLAUDE DARCHEVILLE

It could be a long, tiring evening for "Le Rocket". Smith will probably choose Darcheville ahead of Kris Boyd and Nacho Novo as the lone striker. Daniel Cousin is suspended for the match.

Darcheville enjoys playing right on the shoulder of the last defender and has scored two goals in his 12 appearances in Europe for Rangers this season. There are few players who can match his pace when he is in full flight.

NACHO NOVO

On a few occasions, it has looked as though Novo's career at Ibrox was over, but each time the little striker has fought his way back into the team and various managers' affections.

Never one to give a defence a moment's rest, Novo is tenacious and fast and won't let a few missed chances dent his confidence. He may well appear as a second-half substitute.

KRIS BOYD

Kris Boyd
Rangers' top scorer, though unlikely to start in a 4-5-1 formation

Boyd has been top scorer for Rangers every season since his arrival from Kilmarnock. His tally stands at 21 for the current season, but all of these have been scored in domestic competition.

Unfortunately for Boyd, Smith has preferred the workrate and pace of Darcheville when deploying a 4-5-1 system.


see also
Uefa Cup final tactics
14 May 08 |  Europe
Rangers match reaction
14 May 08 |  Rangers
Zenit St Petersburg v Rangers
14 May 08 |  Europe
Final countdown for Rangers fans
14 May 08 |  Scotland
City says sorry for Rangers delay
12 May 08 |  Glasgow, Lanarkshire and West
The secrets of Rangers' success
11 Apr 08 |  Rangers


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