Babbel Wary of the Wise Walter and Warrior Weir

Daily Mail (London), September 16, 2009 | Go to article overview

Babbel Wary of the Wise Walter and Warrior Weir


Byline: MARK WILSON reports from Stuttgart

TO Markus Babbel, success for Stuttgart against Rangers tonight will mean the young buck has outwitted the wily old fox.

At 37, the coach of the Bundesliga side is two years younger than Ibrox captain David Weir and enters the Group G encounter as a Champions League novice.

He knows full well the occupant of the opposite technical area inside the Mercedes-Benz Arena has all the experience he has yet to acquire.

Babbel yesterday spoke in glowing terms about his admiration for Walter Smith and is keenly anticipating locking horns with a man he rates as one of the best coaches in the European game.

'It is a great challenge for me to compete against a wily fox like Walter Smith,' said Babbel. 'I can only pay him compliments for everything he has achieved in his coaching career.

'He has a huge amount of experience in all aspects of the game. He is someone who has always managed to guide Rangers into the Champions League or to important stages of good competitions, even though the Scottish league is maybe not the strongest in the world.

'He has also managed the Scottish national team and achieved good results, so, again, all I can say is my compliments to his achievements in football.'

Babbel also smiled when asked to sum up the characteristics of Scottish football. Rather than simply trot out the usual cliches about fighting spirit, he selected Weir as an embodiment of the indefatigability he expects to encounter. The two have crossed paths before, once operating on opposite sides of Merseyside's great rivalry.

'I remember playing against David Weir and he sums up a lot about Scottish players,' said Babbel. 'He was at Everton when I was with Liverpool and it was special to play in those derby matches.

'Weir is a top professional and someone who does everything he can for his team. He has so much experience and I have great respect for him. But, if I remember rightly, I won the last derby game we played. I hope I can win again tomorrow.'

Alexander Hleb remains an injury worry for Stuttgart but will be given as much time as possible to prove his readiness after suffering a hamstring strain in the 3-1 weekend defeat to Hamburg that dropped Babbel's side to 12th in the Bundesliga. …

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