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By ESPN Staff

Sporting deny Sergio set for the sack

Sporting Lisbon were in disarray on the eve of their Europa League tie against Rangers after being forced to publicly back manager Paulo Sergio.

It has been widely reported in the Portuguese press that Sergio faces losing his job if his side do not progress past the Scottish champions, having earned a 1-1 draw last week in Glasgow.

The Europa League is seen as Sporting's last chance for success this season, having fallen an embarrassing 23 points behind league leaders Porto and with Monday's derby defeat to city rivals Benfica increasing the pressure on their beleaguered boss.

However, the club have moved to hand Sergio a vote of confidence ahead of the meeting with Rangers, quashing suggestions it is a make-or-break encounter.

A club statement read: ''Sporting denies and refutes the news that has been made public about changes to the structure of the football technical team. Such reports are mere conjecture without any basis of the truth.

''To dispel any doubts, the trainer Paulo Sergio and the technical team have the full confidence of the management board to deal with the difficult sporting challenges ahead.''

The last-32 tie was tipped in Sporting's favour when Matias Fernandez came off the bench to cancel out Steven Whittaker's opener and claim a vital away goal.

And the midfielder has called on the club's supporters to back the team and make home advantage count at the Jose Alvalade stadium.

''We have to go into this home game very focused and determined to win,'' he said. ''We must continue to do a good job and move forward in this competition. It will be a very difficult match, however we are at home and must use this in our favour.

''We will need help from everyone to continue. The players and the fans must go into the game strong and united to win.''

Striker Yannick Djalo also issued a rallying cry to the fans, adding: ''Never abandon us, keep with us, because the game against Rangers will be difficult and the support will be fundamental to us going forward.

''We want to make sure the round goes in our favour and we have all the conditions to win the game.

''Certainly we can make this the positive result that we want. The European games always create a special environment. It's a difficult match but we will do all we can to make it a special night for us and the fans.''

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