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UEFA Champions League
By ESPN Staff

Samaras dismisses Rangers as long ball merchants

Georgios Samaras has added fuel to an already potentially-explosive finale in the Premier League by claiming Rangers play inferior football to Celtic.

The Light Blues are two points clear at the top of the table and victory in their final game of the campaign at Dundee United on Sunday - regardless of how the Hoops get on against Hearts - would prevent the Parkhead club racking up their fourth title in succession.

While Celtic boss Gordon Strachan was reluctant to discuss Rangers ahead of another exciting end to an SPL season, Greek striker Samaras was ignoring unwritten rules surrounding mutual respect between the Old Firm clubs.

Mindful of the fact his side have relinquished an eight-point advantage this season to leave Rangers within one win of the title, the former Manchester City man caused quite a stir when he compared the Govan side unfavourably with the champions.

"We are two teams who don't play the same way,'' he said. "We are better than Rangers. We are a team who likes to play football. At Celtic, we prefer to pass the ball and create chances.

"This is how the gaffer wants us to play. We have also won the title three times in a row with this type of football. But Rangers play another type of football.

"Rangers have something which maybe we don't have - they like to battle, to play long balls into the box and just fight. We want to enjoy the game when we go out onto the park, and we want our supporters to enjoy it, and we want the people at home watching us to enjoy it.

"We don't want people to change the TV channel if they are watching us.''

Samaras refused to give up hope of another twist in this season's SPL tale, saying: "Of course we are disappointed, given that we were eight points clear. But remember what Rangers did last year - with five or six games to go they were seven points clear and they had played one game less than us.

"So you can never be sure. You have to fight until the last second of the last game to win the league.''

Hearts manager Csaba Laszlo believes owner Vladimir Romanov must invest this summer to avoid this season's achievements being for nothing.

The club's majority shareholder is set to fly into Scotland this weekend for showdown talks with Laszlo, as the Hungarian seeks to build on a third-place SPL finish and Europa League qualification.

Laszlo knows the coming weeks are vital to his hopes of further progress in Gorgie, with uncertainty hanging over the future of a number of key players.

He fears the spine of his team could be lost and has urged Romanov to invest - most probably through wages - to retain the majority of his squad and capture experience in the close season.

Laszlo said: "I wish from the board to help us a little bit. Now must come the signal from the club to buy - investment is very important. If you go to the Europa League, you must go with experienced players.

"We need definitely new blood. We must invest and if we don't, we have too young a team for the SPL and also for the Europa League. If next season we are eighth, this season was for nothing. You can't go up and down, up and down.''


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