Away goals rule nerves Rangers
Rangers manager Walter Smith believes team selection rather than formation will be the key to adapting to the unusual situation of playing a UEFA Europa League last-16 second leg at Ibrox.
When Rangers host PSV Eindhoven tomorrow night, it will be the first time since a 4-0 victory over Hapoel Tel Aviv four years ago that they have played the return leg at home. Rangers have generally excelled in the reverse situation, winning five out of six knockout ties in three seasons.
After a goalless first leg in the Netherlands last week, Smith's men now face the danger that their opponents have struggled with, the fear of an away goal. Rangers progressed to the final in 2008 on the back of three successes following goalless Ibrox games, and knocked out Sporting Lisbon on the away goals rule in this season's last 32.
PSV have shown they can score on the road, winning all three of their away games in the group stages, against Metalist Kharkiv, Sampdoria and Debrecen, and scoring twice in Lille in the previous round.
Smith knows his team need to attack more in this encounter than they have in previous Ibrox ties, but he looks set to continue with the 5-4-1 formation he has preferred in Europe this season to minimise the risk of losing an away goal.
Rangers struggled to get forward at Eindhoven, but Smith has Kyle Lafferty and Steven Naismith available after illness and injury, although the latter is not certain to start, and he feels his midfields ability to break forward will be crucial.
"We'll have to change a little bit from the way we have played, especially in the away games," Smith said. "Although we have kept a very similar formation, we have approached the home games in a slightly different fashion, both in the [UEFA] Champions League and against Sporting Lisbon.
"We had more attacking personnel within the same set-up so we just have to find the right balance, that's the important part for us."
Having benefited from the away goals rule on several occasions in recent years, Smith feels his players will know the potential pitfalls.
"We have taken advantage of it in European games ourselves," he said. "It's something you have to handle. We have used it to our advantage, the experience we have of that can be gained the other way. But we know at some stage in the game we have to attack and try to win the game."
PSV Eindhoven manager Fred Rutten dismissed criticism of Rangers defensive European approach. Rangers caution was once described as "anti-football" by Lionel Messi after a goalless draw against Barcelona, but Rutten believes every approach should be respected.
The PSV manager empathised with Smith over the criticism of his tactics as he reflected on working as a coach in a country that demands attractive football.
"I will never decide whether something is good or bad if a team gets results," said Rutten. "In Holland we always think we have to get results and play beautiful football like Barcelona. There is only one club in the world that can do that. That's why I always have respect for my opponent."
PSV defender Wilfred Bouma also felt criticism of Rangers approach was harsh. "If you play for the title in Scotland and you are still in Europe, this is the way they get their results," said Bouma. "As long as they get results, it's hard for me to say anything about that. They got a result last week and they will try to finish the job."