Rangers have opportunity to restore Scots' European pride

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The Independent Football

Walter Smith has challenged his Rangers players to prove they are an even better side than the one who gave Stuttgart a run for their money in the Champions League two years ago.

The two teams are set to meet again in this year's group stage opener at the Mercedes Benz Arena tonight, with the Scottish champions keen to buck the trend following a disappointing European showing from their fellow SPL sides this season.

Rangers clinched a 2-1 win over the Bundesliga outfit at Ibrox back in September 2007, before enduring a narrow 3-2 defeat in the return match in Stuttgart. The goalscorers in those two clashes – Charlie Adam, Jean-Claude Darcheville and Barry Ferguson – may have since departed but Smith believes the nucleus of the squad, who then went on to reach the Uefa Cup final that season, remains.

"Our team hasn't really changed a great deal since the last time we played Stuttgart two years ago," Smith said. "But we have improved in certain areas. We had a decent Champions League campaign two years ago and this will be the test for us to see if we have improved to the level that we hope for."

Smith will wait until the last moment to decide on his starting XI, with Jerome Rothen – who made his debut at the weekend – and Kevin Thomson both in contention to start.