Smith enjoys pressure of Rangers' rare chance to reach last 16

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The Independent Football

Walter Smith, the Rangers manager, insists his side are relishing the pressure they now find themselves under as expectations of a last-16 place in the Champions League begin to grow.

The Scottish champions were all but written off when the draw was made and they found themselves in a section which includes Manchester United, Valencia and Turkish champions Bursaspor. Rangers finished bottom of their group without a win in the competition last year but already have five points at the halfway stage this time.

They head into tonight's tie with Valencia a point ahead of their Spanish hosts and Smith believes the home side are not the only ones expected to deliver on the night.

He said: "There is no doubt there is pressure on us to get a result, it's not just Valencia who want to do well in the tournament. We have started well and we welcome the extra pressure that's on us. To see if we can try to remain in the tournament after Christmas is a pressure that's welcome. Last season, we were never in this position."

However, Smith claims Valencia are still favourites to progress from Group C, along with Manchester United, despite some less than impressive results domestically, as well as drawing at Ibrox in their last European outing.

He added: "Valencia would have been anyone's favourite at the start of the campaign. Manchester United and Valencia were the two favoured teams to remain in the Champions League. I still think that's the case. You mention Valencia's last two results but when you lose the players they lost in the close season, it always takes a bit of time to find your feet. They did so exceptionally well in the early part but there were always going to be one or two problems.

"For the last few seasons, David Villa has been their top goalscorer and, when there was a little bit of a problem, he would do something special to win a game. Maybe in the last couple of games they haven't had that but overall they are still an extremely strong team and still the favoured team to go through."

Probable teams: Valencia (4-4-2): Moyà; Miguel, Navarro, R Costa, Mathieu; M Fernandes, Mata, M Topal, P Hernández; Dominguez, Aduriz.

Rangers (4-4-2): McGregor; Broadfoot, Weir, Bougherra, Papac; Whittaker, Edu, Davis, Naismith; Lafferty, Miller.

Referee F Brych (Ger).