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Euro home draw suits Gers - Smith


Rangers manager Walter Smith
Smith says that playing at Ibrox first bodes well for Rangers

Rangers manager Walter Smith is hoping a home draw in the first leg of their Champions League second round qualifier is an "omen" for more European glory

Smith's side will face Andorra's Santa Coloma or Lithuanian champions FBK Kaunas, with the first leg at Ibrox.

"In the knockout parts of the Champions League last season and then in the Uefa Cup, we were at home first in every one," Smith told the club's website.

"We handled the situation well so hopefully it will be a good omen."

Last term Rangers played at home first in their Champions League qualifiers against FC Zeta and Red Star Belgrade as they progressed to the group stages of the competition.

After dropping down to the Uefa Cup, the Ibrox club went on to reach the final - losing 2-0 to Zenit St Petersburg in Manchester - after playing the first leg of each round in Glasgow.

In the knockout parts of the Champions League last season and then in the Uefa Cup, we were at home first in every one
Rangers manager Walter Smith

Smith is hoping that the home match against Santa Coloma or Kaunas, scheduled for 29/30 July, with the return leg on 5/6 August, will be the start of another successful run in Europe.

The Andorrans and Lithuanians face each other in the first qualifying round, with the first leg ties to be played 15/16 July and the second legs on 22/23 July.

And Kaunas are no strangers to Smith or Scottish football fans, due to the Lithuanian club's long-time association with Hearts' owner Vladimir Romanov.

Striker Andrius Velicka, who is one of several Kaunas players to have spent loan spells at Hearts, will move from Norwegian side Viking Stavanger to Rangers in July.

And the Glasgow side have met the Lithuanian champions before in European competition, beating them 4-1 on aggregate in a Champions League qualifier in 2000.

"It is always interesting to see the teams that have to play in the first round and I would say that Kaunas will be the favoured side to go through," Smith continued.

"I don't think anybody will know that much about the Andorran side and Kaunas themselves will think they will be favourites.

"We were close to playing them last season, they lost out narrowly to FC Zeta who we played in the qualifiers.

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"We've had Lithuanian players in Scotland over the last few years at Hearts and they have all been of a good standard so Kaunas will be difficult opposition to overcome."

Smith is uncertain of just what he can learn from the Lithuania international Velicka but knows that negotiating a path through to the Champions League proper is crucial to Rangers' season.

"I hope he will be able to help us but he's been away from Kaunas for quite a while," the former Scotland boss said.

"And I think they have quite a large turnover of staff on a regular basis.

"He will obviously be able to keep us up to speed with what's happening there.

"But on the face of it you know you will face a tough tie anyway.

"We have to make sure our pre-season preparations are thorough and we are ready to play.

"We were last season and I'm sure we will be this season as well."

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