Rangers hobble into Kaunas tie

Injury-plagued Rangers tackle little FBK Kaunas in a Champions League qualifier on Wednesday, but the Lithuanians' coach admits he'll need super-human powers to overcome the Scottish giants.

Influential defender Carlos Cuellar suffered a calf injury in Rangers' friendly win over Raith on Saturday and will miss the first leg of the second qualifying round tie. The former Osasuna man joins skipper Barry Ferguson as well as Chris Burke and Steven Naismith on the sidelines, while striker DaMarcus Beasley will be out for another two weeks with a hamstring problem.

"It is a setback to lose Carlos and that is always the case when you have important players who are injured," said Rangers manager Walter Smith. "That is emphasised by the importance of the games at the start of the season, but we have to show we have a squad that can handle this situation and I'm sure we have that."

Kaunas's former FC Porto coach Jose Couceiro, aware that his little team struggle for recognition in a country dominated by basketball, warned he was "not Jesus Christ" but promised to work what miracles he could against last season's UEFA Cup finalists. "Rangers are a very strong club," he told www.uefa.com. "The Scottish are especially dangerous from set pieces."

The Lithuanian club reached the second qualifying round with a 7-2 aggregate success against Santa Coloma of Andorra.

Return visit
Wednesday's game could see Andrius Velicka come up against his former Kaunas team-mates for the first time. The 29-year-old joined Rangers in the summer from Norwegian side Viking having previously been on loan with Hearts. When he was at Kaunas from 1996, he scored 91 goals in 169 league games and netted his first goal for Rangers in a 3-1 friendly win over Morton last week.

Elsewhere in the second qualifying round this week, former European Cup runners-up Panathinaikos will tackle Dinamo Tbilisi while Sparta Prague will face Sheriff of Moldova.

Two-time UEFA Cup winners IFK Gothenburg will face Swiss champions Basel while experienced Ukrainians Dynamo Kiev take on Irish outfit Drogheda United. Fenerbahce of Turkey, who reached the quarter-finals last season, meet Hungarian champions MTK Budapest.

Drogheda (IRL) v Dynamo Kiev (UKR)
Inter Baku (AZE) v Partizan Belgrade (SRB)
SK Brann (NOR) v FK Ventspils (LAT)

AaB (DEN) v Modrica (BIH)
Anderlecht (BEL) v BATE (BLR)
Anorthosis Famagusta (CYP) v Rapid Vienna (AUT)
Beitar Jerusalem (ISR) v Wisla Krakow (POL)
Domzale (SLO) v Dinamo Zagreb (CRO)
FC Sheriff (MOL) v Sparta Prague (CZE)
Fenerbahce (TUR) v MTK Budapest (HUN)
IFK Gothenborg (SWE) v Basel (SUI)
Panathinaikos (GRE) v Dinamo Tbilisi (GEO)
Rangers (SCO) v FBK Kaunas (LTU)
Tampere (FIN) v Artmedia (SVK)