Smith: Euro heartache is history

Rangers manager Walter Smith says his players have proved they have put their European heartache behind them by claiming top spot in the Scottish Premier League.

The Ibrox club crashed out of the UEFA Champions League at the qualifying stage to Lithuanian minnows Kaunas, but have recovered to drop just two points this season to lead the table.

Smith's team came from behind to defeat Kilmarnock last weekend to open up a three-point lead, and the manager knows it is vital for the team to continue their winning form in Sunday's match against Motherwell.

The game has been moved to Sunday to allow the Fir Park men to recover from their own European adventure against Nancy in the UEFA Cup on Thursday. But Smith hopes his side show Motherwell no sympathy as they bid to win their first league title in four years.

"The first couple of matches after the Kaunas game were always going to be awkward for us but the team has settled down now and I think everyone has shown that although it was a big blow to lose European football they have recovered from that," said Smith. "We are playing a decent level of football now and we have had some good performances, including an exceptional one at Celtic Park (Rangers won 4-2).

"The early indications are we have shaken off the early season rustiness and we are performing to a decent level. I felt we played very well against Kilmarnock last weekend and created a number of chances.

"They made it hard for us and fought well throughout the game but we managed to get the win that we wanted. Hopefully we can build on that this weekend."

Bouncing back
In Sunday's other game Kilmarnock host Celtic at Rugby Park. The Scottish champions will be looking to bounce back from their disappointing midweek Champions League draw against Aalborg, while third-placed Kilmarnock know a victory would see them split the Old Firm in the table.

On Saturday, bottom-placed club Dundee United travel to Aberdeen looking for their first win of the season. Jimmy Calderwood will be hoping his side can improve on their form at Pittodrie, where they have only picked up one point so far this season.

Hearts take on Inverness Caledonian Thistle at Tynecastle without winger Andrew Driver, who has been ruled out with an ankle problem. Craig Brewster's side could leapfrog the Edinburgh side in the league if they can clinch a win in the capital.

Falkirk travel through to Paisley to take on St Mirren at Love Street. Both teams will be on a high after they picked up their first wins of the season last weekend.

Hamilton host Hibernian at New Douglas Park hoping to continue their good early season form. The newly-promoted club sit fourth in the table, and midfielder James McArthur was handed the young player of the month award for August. Hibs striker Derek Riordan, who recently returned to the club from Celtic, is included in Mixu Paatelainen's squad.