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Football: Gers are no certainties to succeed on difficult Cyprus trip.

Byline: Stuart Carruthers

RANGERS can take a giant leap towards qualification for the Champions League group stage by getting a draw from their trip to Anorthosis F amagusta, writes Stuart Carruthers. Having watched their Old Firm rivals lose 5-0 to Artmedia Bratislava, a supposedly weaker team than Celtic, in the last round, Alex McLeish will have his team fully focused for this evening's encounter.

Anorthosis haven't started their domestic season yet but the Cypriot champions showed what they can do by beating Turkish outfit Trabzonspor 3-2 over two legs in the second qualifying round. They had previously beaten Dinamo Minsk 2-1 on aggregate in the first round and went unbeaten at home in last season's Cypriot league with ten wins and three draws. Rangers have started their domestic campaign with two victories and had also looked good in pre-season.

They comfortably overcame Livingston 3-0 without having to come out of second gear on the opening day, but were made to work a lot harder for three points by Inverness in the Highlands on Saturday.

A Barry Ferguson goal gave them a 1-0 win, but they were far from solid in defence and Big Eck has indicated he is likely to shuffle his pack for this match.

This should mean a debut for new signing Julien Rodriguez, who has been signed from Monaco. The Frenchman was kept on the bench on Saturday, so is raring to go.

Rodriguez reached the Champions League final with Monaco two seasons ago and should prove a good partner for fellow countryman JoseK arl Pierre-Fanfan in the heart of defence.

Ronald Waterreus showed at the weekend why he is keeping Stefan Klos out of the side with some superb saves and with Fernando Ricksen and Ian Murray also in top form, Rangers should be able to cope with all that Anorthosis can throw at them.

So far this season McLeish has been playing a 4-2-3-1 formation with Dado Prso leading the line, Thomas Buffel in the hole and Nacho Novo and P eter Lovenkrands out on the flanks. This has been working well for the Light Blues and it is unlikely they will change as they always look dangerous on the break using this system.

Big Eck has said he would be happy with a score draw, but he would also be pleased to take the Cypriots back to Ibrox goalless.

Recommendations Draw 1pt 12-5 (Totesport)

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Rangers's forward Nacho Novo (left) is challenged by Ipswich Town midfielder Owen Garvan in a pre-season friendly
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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:The Racing Post (London, England)
Date:Aug 9, 2005
Words:419
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