Smith forced to rely on Rangers youngsters
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Rangers manager Walter Smith will have to rely upon his fringe stars for Saturday's Scottish Premier League clash with Dundee United at Ibrox as he faces up to an injury crisis.

Steven Davis, Kyle Lafferty, Madjid Bougherra and Vladimir Weiss failed to feature while away on international duty due to various knocks. On-loan Kyle Bartley has returned to Arsenal after his season was ended with ligament damage, while long-term casualties Lee McCulloch and Kirk Broadfoot are still short of fitness.

It means Smith could be without nearly half the team that won the League Cup against Celtic a fortnight ago. However, the Gers coach has been able to utilise the talents of several of his youth team, with Kyle Hutton, Gregg Wylde and Jamie Ness all being given their chance in the first team this season.

And Smith says he may have to call on them again as his side, who are two points behind Celtic having played a game less, face playing six games in 17 days. "I don't think we can say we have been surprised by what they've all done because we know the level of the boys' ability," the Rangers manager said.

"For the young lads coming in generally, they've all handled themselves extremely well in their first year. That's a good thing because we may well need every single one of our players to contribute in the last part of the season. Playing 11 games in six weeks is a big ask of any team and it's going to be a test of our whole group, but that's a challenge we're looking forward to, the youngsters included."

Ljungberg primed for Bhoys start
League leaders Celtic could pile the pressure on Rangers if they win away to Inverness Caledonian Thistle in the early kick-off. One player who wants to be involved is former Arsenal player Freddie Ljungberg.

The Swede, who joined Celtic in January, has managed just four substitute appearances in the league, and a single start in the Scottish Cup, but he now hopes to feature in the title run-in. "It can be frustrating but I have had a very open dialogue with (coach) Neil Lennon and he said he wanted me to train hard and get really fit," Ljungberg said.

"I hope now I can kick on from this and I can get on and play. The end of the season is always the most important part. That's when you win things and when the pressure comes in and of course, I am looking forward to it."

Sunday sees the third Edinburgh derby of the season as Hibernian host Hearts at Easter Road. Hearts have done the double over their Edinburgh rivals this season and currently sit six places and 26 points above them.

However, Jim Jefferies' squad has been decimated by injury and suspension. Calum Elliot has been ruled out for six months and fellow striker Kevin Kyle is unlikely to be fit in time for Sunday's game. Defender Eggert Jonsson and midfielder Adrian Mrowiec are banned, Lee Wallace is a major doubt and winger Suso Santana, midfielder Rudi Skacel and captain Marius Zaliukas only have a slight chance of featuring.

Elsewhere on Saturday, the SPL's bottom two clubs clash as St Mirren take on Hamilton. Kilmarnock will travel to McDiarmid Park to take on St Johnstone minus manager Mixu Paatelainen, after he left the club to take charge of Finland. Motherwell will be on a high when they welcome Aberdeen to Fir Park after they claimed a Scottish Cup semi-final spot with a 3-0 mid-week win over Dundee United.