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Walter:The hardest thing is getting the proper balance between defending and


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Published Date: 26 September 2010


AT the outset, a trip to Old Trafford looked like the most demanding of Rangers' Champions League fixtures, but there may be cause to revise that view.

With only a fraction of the talent boasted by Manchester United, the Scottish side had little option but to man the barricades. There was no pressure on them to find a way of winning, and therefore no subtlety required, on the pitch or in the dugout.

It will be a different matter at Ibrox on Wednesday night when Bursaspor provide the opposition in Rangers' second Group C outing. The first of two straight home matches in the competition gives the Scottish champions a fighting chance to build on their scoreless draw in Manchester, but the challenge is altogether more complicated than that which they rose to a fortnight ago.

As the club's resources have diminished, so has their ability to seize the initiative against teams of substance. The tactical discipline bred in them by their manager, Walter Smith, can be enough to prevent goals, but it isn't enough to score them. That's why Rangers haven't won any of their last 12 matches in Europe. It's also why their best results, invariably low-scoring draws, have been on their travels, where there is no obligation to attack.

Rangers, in fact, haven't won a home match in Europe since they beat Werder Bremen on their way to the 2008 UEFA Cup final. In those six Ibrox games, they have scored only twice. While they were able to secure draws in Romania and Germany during last season's Champions League, they lost all three of their home games, 4-1 to Seville, 4-1 to Unirea Urziceni and 2-0 to Stuttgart.

No wonder the club's marketing department is hawking tickets like never before. Smith admits that he has struggled in recent times to combine the team's strengths with a responsibility, in home games at least, to go forward. "The hardest thing is getting the proper balance between defending and attacking," he says. "When you go to away games, you can defend. There is no shame in it. The top teams all the way down adjust to the defensive aspect. That is relatively easy.

"In home matches, there is more of an onus on us to get up the pitch and threaten the goal, more than we feel it necessary to do in away matches. The problem is finding the ability to defend properly and at the same time cause problems to the opposition. Last year, we certainly didn't achieve that. Hopefully this season, we can adjust to it a bit better."

Of course, his are not the only team wrestling with that problem. Two weeks ago, Bursapor were beaten 4-0 by Valencia in Turkey. Zilina, the Slovakian champions, lost 4-1 at home to Chelsea. "I think when you look at a lot of the (opening] games in the Champions League, (the home teams] played in the manner they normally do when they are at home," says Smith.


With no Jelavic, I think its 4-5-1 on Wednesday.

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