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Sporting chance for boss.

Byline: Craig Swan

SPORTING Lisbon slumped further into crisis last night when club chiefs were forced to deny rumours that defeat against Rangers will cost boss Paulo Sergio his job.

Speculation is rife about Sergio getting the boot if he fails to see off Walter Smith's troops in the Europa League tonight.

A humiliating 2-0 home loss against 10-man Benfica on Monday has left Sporting 23 points behind Portuguese leaders Porto.

And furious fans are running out of patience with Sergio and his players during a dismal campaign.

The Europa League is seen as Sporting's final chance for success this season and they head into tonight's last-32 clash well placed after a 1-1 draw at Ibrox.

Defeat would heap further pressure on Sergio but Sporting's board gave him a vote of confidence last night. A club statement read: "We deny and refute news that has been made public about changes to the structure of the technical team.

"The stories are conjecture without any basis of the truth. To dispel any doubts, Paulo Sergio and the technical team have the full confidence of the management board to deal with the difficult sporting challenges ahead."

Matias Fernandez tipped this tie in Sporting's favour when he came off the bench to cancel out Steven Whittaker's opener at Ibrox.

And the Chilean midfielder has called on the club's supporters to back the team tonight.

He said: "It will be a difficult match but we are at home and must use this in our favour.

"The players and the fans must be strong and united."

Striker Yannick Djalo also issued a rallying cry to the fans ahead of Sporting's day of reckoning.

He said: "Never abandon us, keep with us. Your support will be crucial as we push forward trying to beat Rangers.

"We want to make sure we reach the next round and need to use every advantage we can.

"We can get the result we need if the fans are behind us. European games always create a special atmosphere.

"It's a difficult match but we will do all we can to make it a special night for us and the fans."

CAPTION(S):

PRESSURE: Paulo Sergio
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Feb 24, 2011
Words:363
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