DAVID SMITH - Tuesday, July 26, 2011
The third round of Champions League qualification kicks off on Tuesday, pitting Maurice Edu and Rangers against Swedish winners Malmö FF.
Glasgow Rangers - Malmö FF
Maurice Edu should be in the starting lineup for Rangers on Tuesday evening as they host Swedish team Malmö FF in the first game of their two-legged home-and-home series.
Rangers have already seen their season start off on a disappointing note, being held to a one-all draw at home against Hearts in their opening game on Saturday to fall behind in the always-tight Scottish Premier League fight.
First and foremost, they will need to jump-start an attack which was entirely flaccid through the first half of play against Hearts since taking a substantial advantage with them to the return leg next week in Sweden is of vital importance this time around.
Malmö's Swedbank Stadion will be noticeably free of attendees in Rangers colors in one week, as the club has been hit with a one-game travel ban for away fans due to sectarian singing by the supporters last season.
With that in mind, new Rangers head coach Ally McCoist as a somewhat tricky task at hand for his first-ever European game, as he needs to effectively shut the door on the Swedes in the opening home leg to give the team a safe passage through to the Play-off round and eventually the group stage.
Fortunately for McCoist, Malmö have hardly looked as though they are a team ready to pull off a major shock. In addition to a fairly troubling league run which sees them in the bottom half of the Swedish Allsvenskan standings and unlikely to even qualify for Europe next year, they were forced to sweat out their first-round qualification series against Faroese minnows HB Tórshavn, with a 90th-minute goal by Brazilian Wílton Figueiredo finally making things certain in their surprisingly tight 3-1 aggregate win.
Their one advantage heading into the series is that they are midway through their domestic season, whereas Rangers were clearly showing some signs of rust from the summer break in their season opener over the weekend.
Malmö are going to be forced to make do without starting left back Ricardinho who is forced to watch from the stands after picking up his second yellow in qualification in their previous game, and midfielder Jeffrey Aubynn who is not yet fully recovered from injury.
Rangers have a nearly full compliment of players available for the game, with the one exception being Northern Irish striker Kyle Lafferty, who is out for several weeks with a hernia.
Freddy Adu is not taking part in team activities with parent club SL Benfica Lisbon as he searches for a new club, and will not play any role on Wednesday when they face Turkish runners up Trabzonspor in Lisbon.