Smith call for cool heads for Champions League tie

August 5, 2008

Rangers manager Walter Smith has told his players they must not approach Tuesday night's make-or-break Champions League qualifier against FBK Kaunas with fear.

The Ibrox side had been favourites to come through the tie and book a place in the third qualifying round, which is likely to be against Danish outfit Aalborg.

But a goalless draw in the home leg means Rangers' hopes hang in the balance and they face a real risk of crashing out of Europe completely unless they can salvage the tie in Tuesday night's return match in Lithuania.

'You have to face that aspect of it,' said Smith.

'In the next round it's different because you can say you've got the UEFA Cup but that doesn't make it any better if you don't get there.

'It's like everything else - you've just got to win your games and make sure you do enough to get through.

'We didn't do enough in the first leg - we weren't bright enough and we've got to be in the second leg. We know what we have to do and I don't think you can approach the game with any great fear.

'We can approach it with confidence because if we play well enough we know we can go through.

'It gets to you just after the season finishes when you realise you're going to have to face the qualifiers before you're really up and running and that's the worst part of it, but it happens and you've just got to get on with it and you have to be ready for it.'

Smith insists everyone in the dressing room is well aware of what is at stake - but not necessarily because of their epic European run last season, which saw them begin with Champions League qualifiers and end with an appearance in the UEFA Cup final.

He said: 'Our players have had a realisation of what they have had to do in games, but as I keep saying to you, last season's part of it doesn't count.

'The knowledge that they gained and the confidence they gained from playing last year can have an effect, plus if we start to play at the same level as we did last year.

'We'll have to do that to get through this game. We'll have to play at a really good level to get through and that's up to us to ensure we do that.

'I don't know whether that's as good as Kaunas can play. I just know that we can play better than we did in that game and that's what we'll have to do - concentrate on our own performance and that's what we'll do.'

Smith masterminded Scotland's 2-1 win over Lithuania at the same venue in 2006, with current Rangers players Christian Dailly and Kenny Miller both on the scoresheet.

But he insists past triumphs are irrelevant to the task at hand.

Smith said: 'Never mind what's happened before - it is an awkward place to come and play. They're in their season, we're not.

'All of that is there. We've got to overcome any problems we're having at the present moment if we're going to go through.'