UEFA Cup finals preview

UEFA Cup 2007/08

Incredible Rangers reach finals in Italian style

The current season has given us yet another unlikely final, as was the case in the previous three editions. The last "normal" final encounter saw Valencia defeat Marseille by 2-0 four years ago, while the following years produced improbable ties like CSKA Moscow vs Sporting Lisbon, Sevilla vs Middlesbrough and Sevilla vs Espanyol.

This season's surprise packages are Glasgow Rangers and Zenit of St Petersburg.

UEFA Cup finals preview.

Rangers have delighted their fans by reaching their first European finals in 36 years, but the neutrals have been horrified by their ultradefensive, utterly negative style. It is no doubt ironic that in their semifinal tie against Fiorentina it was the Scots who built a stonewall in front of their goal rather than the Italians.

Since reaching the knockout stage of the UEFA Cup. Rangers have tortured the audience with unwatchable tactics, having scored a mere five goals in eight games (0.6 per match), qualifying on one occasion on the away-goals rule and on another on penalties.

Curiously, their previous finals appearance, in the 1972 Cup Winners' Cup, also confronted them with a Russian opposition. Back then they defeated Dinamo Moscow 3-2 in Barcelona, but Rangers' fans fought the police, earning the team a one-year suspension from Europe.

Zenit on the other hand have gathered much support all around Europe with their fast combinations reminiscent of the great Dinamo Kiev of the mid-seventies and mid-eighties.
Arshavin, Pogrebnyak, Zhiryanov, Anyukov, keeper Malafeyev and the Croatian central defender Krizanac have knocked out the Spanish League runners-up Villarreal, Olympique Marseille, Bayer Leverkusen and a powerful Bayern Munich before taking on Rangers at the City of Manchester stadium.

Their games against Bayer in Leverkusen (4-1) and Bayern in St. Petersburg (4-0) will doubtlessly make it into the golden book of the Russian soccer. A victory for them on May 14th would be a just reward for their adventurous, attacking style.

UEFA Cup semifinals

Bayern vs Zenit 1-1 0-4
Rangers vs Fiorentina 0-0 0-0 (4-2 pen)


Rangers vs Zenit May 14th

Path to finals

Rangers (from Champions League)
Round of 32 Panathinaikos 0-0 1-1
Round of 16 Werder 2-0 0-1
Quarterfinals Sporting Lisbon 0-0 2-0
Semifinals Fiorentina 0-0 0-0 (4-2 pen)

Group stage: Alkmaar 1-1, Larissa 3-2, N├╝rnberg 2-2, Everton 0-1
Round of 32 Villarreal 1-0 1-2
Round of 16 Marseille 1-3 2-0
Quarterfinals: Bayer Leverkusen 4-1 0-1
Semifinals: Bayern Munich 1-1 4-0

Copyright Ozren Podnar & Soccerphile

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