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Football: Draw was hard to swallow at first but now I am gagging for a taste of the action SAYS DAMARCUS BEASLEY; Rangers v Stuttgart, tonight, kick-off 7.45.

Byline: Michael BAILLIE

DAMARCUS Beasley almost choked on his dinner as he watched the Champions League draw unfold and saw Rangers being pitched in against Europe's big guns.

The Ibrox outfit were paired with the German champions, the French champions and a side which just missed out on their third successive La Liga title on the final day of the Spanish season.

Rangers may be massive underdogs to progress from Group E featuring VfB Stuttgart, Lyon and Barcelona but Beasley insists anyone writing off Walter Smith's side should do so at their peril.

Far from being intimidated by the side's Rangers will face Beasley is relishing the challenge and believes the Ibrox outfit, who commence their campaign this evening against Stuttgart, could be this season's surprise package in UEFA's premier club tournament. Beasley said: "I was eating at home when the draw was being made and as the big names kept coming out of the hat I almost choked on my food.

"It's a great draw and while everyone knows it will be difficult it's great to get that kind of pedigree in our group.

"We wanted this kind of group because it will give us the chance to show everyone how we play our football.

"The ball won't be in the air all the time because these sides understand football and play it like it should be played - that's going to good for us.

"After the World Cup, this is the stage where you want to play football.

"I've been lucky enough to have savoured many great nights in this competition and I hope to savour many more with Rangers.

"We're the underdogs but if we can get out of this group then anything can happen because it's knockout.

"Teams are going to underestimate us - home and away - and that's always dangerous. They will come to Ibrox believing they can get a result but it won't be easy for ANYONE, including Barcelona.

"Not a lot of people know about our style and I think we'll surprise a lot of people come tomorrow and in the rest of the campaign." While the majority of Smith's squad are inexperienced at this level of European football, Beasley has played 15 games in the Champions League.

Just three seasons ago when at PSV Eindhoven he contested the semi-final, only to be denied by AC Milan's Massimo Ambrosini's late away goal.

No-one expected the Dutch masters to make such an impact in the Champions League and Beasley is convinced Rangers can make a similar impression. He said: "I think we can have a great tournament.

"At PSV we had a lot of unknown players but we reached the semi-final and a lot of those players are playing at the biggest clubs in the world.

"It can happen to any smaller club on the European stage so why not Rangers? PSV were underestimated because we'd lost Arjen Robben and Mateja Kezman.

"We started in the qualifying rounds just like Rangers this season so I believe it can be a similar story. "We have a lot of quality in this Rangers side and I think we'll show that."

Rangers suffered their first blip in the SPL as their 100 percent record crashed in a 4-2 defeat by Hearts but Beasley said: "We didn't play well but we know Stuttgart in the Champions League is a different situation.

"I think it was a wake-up call for us at the weekend but everyone is ready to go again."

TONIGHT'S LIKELY LINE-UPS

RANGERS

McGregor

Hutton

Papac

Weir

Cuellar

Thomson

Hemdani

Ferguson

Beasley

Cousin

Boyd

STUTTGART

Schafer

Magnin

Meira

Osorio

Tasci

Basturk

Hilbert

Khedira

Pardo

Gomez

Marica

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BOYD UP: Striker Kris enjoys a lighter moment in training; UP FOR IT: Beasley
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Sep 19, 2007
Words:634
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