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IT started an ordinary season and ended a Special One.

The year Jose Mourinho's Porto went from Euro makeweights to Champions League winners.

No one expected it. Few could have even imagined it.

But Pedro Mendes was a key part of it and insists it proves to Rangers what can be done.

The midfielder knows no one will give Walter Smith's side an earthly of making the Madrid final in May.

It will be a major achievement for Gers if they can even manoeuvre a passage through the group stages.


Critics insist competing at the highest level is impossible for our clubs.

But all thanks to Jose, Mendes believes.

He said: "What was our expectation at Porto the season we won it? Just to go through the first group stage.

"When we did that we got Man United and, well, being honest we thought we'd do well to go any further than that - but we did.

"Then the draw was made and we were paired with Lyon, the team we fancied to play.

"After we beat them it was Milan or Deportivo la Coruna - and Coruna made an amazing comeback after a 3-0 first-leg defeat to win 4-0 at home. After we beat them it was either Monaco or Chelsea and Monaco won that match.

"Everything went our way, looking back at it. But the important bit for us was the initial group stages.

"It's like that this season - that's our aim and we'll see what happens after that.

"Our first goal is to progress from the group and if we do that we hope for a kind draw.

"Anything can happen in two games home and away. Porto proved that. At the beginning the expectation was low - I just wish now I put some money on it. If I knew then what I know now. . . "

Rangers have big hitters Sevilla to take on in their quest for a place in the last 16. But Mendes can't wait.

He added: "Getting back to playing in Europe - and in the Champions League - was one of the reasons I came to Rangers.

"You can express yourself better in the European games. You have more time to play and, of course, you are against the top players so the motivation is really high.


"All the requirements are completely different and I think everyone here will enjoy it.

"It will be great for the fans to have European nights back at Ibrox.

"I think I will get goosebumps when I go out there and hear the Champions League music again. It is a phenomenal feeling.

"The responsibility is with everyone but I like these matches.

"I think we had a little taste of what the European matches are like during pre-season, when we played against Manchester City, Paris St Germain and Arsenal. It's a completely different style to the SPL.

"These are games in which we know that we have to play in a different manner. After we played at the Emirates, I said that possession was going to be a very important factor for us in Europe.

"Because of that, all the midfield players have a big responsibility to keep the ball.

"We changed to a new formation for most of the pre-season matches to look ahead to Europe and I think we did pretty well.

"The important thing is that we are ready to play in whatever system the gaffer wants us to play. That's a good thing."

Celtic's Champions League KO was good news for Rangers with the Ibrox club raking in £2.8million more than it would have done had Celts beat Arsenal.

Mendes added: "As the only Scottish team in the Champions League our success will be Scotland's success. It would also help the European co-efficient.


"I think if we do well Scotland will be seen as a football country. It would be great if the whole country got behind Rangers.

"As players we must simply focus on going on to the pitch and doing well - we all want our club to win.

"But if our club wins and does well then we will be doing well for the whole country."

Mendes insists Rangers' success will be based on their home form.

He added: "It's all about making sure we don't give the other teams time to play and also having 50,000 fans with us.


"That can have an effect when you're a player on the pitch and so many people are shouting at you.

"You try to focus on the game but it's not the most comfortable environment when it's like that.

"If we perform strongly and have the fans behind us we can do well.

"If you play with a high tempo and don't give the opposition time to think it's difficult for any team.

"We have to make Ibrox a fortress. It's an old saying, but it's true."


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