McCulloch issues Rangers rallying cry for Valencia
Lee McCulloch insists Rangers will draw confidence from their opening-day draw against Manchester United as they take to the road again in the Champions League against Valencia tonight.
Walter Smith's ultra-defensive 5-4-1 formation may have prompted mixed reviews but had the desired effect as the Scottish champions left Old Trafford with a precious point after earning a goalless draw against the Group C favourites.
Since then, the system has helped them take all three points against Turkish champions Bursaspor and a draw that could very easily have been a victory against Valencia had they taken their chances at Ibrox.
They now face the Spaniards at the Mestalla in a match that could go some way to determining second place in the group and, with five points secured already, McCulloch sees no reason to approach the match with trepidation.
“We have taken confidence from all the games in the Champions League so far,” he said.
“We have done well with a different formation, we have gelled well in that formation and put on good performances at times. We have also looked sound defensively.
“We go into this game with confidence and we look forward to it.”
Rangers spurned several chances against Valencia in Glasgow and, with the onus on their hosts to come out and attack on home soil in this match, McCulloch believes the Ibrox side could snatch a win this time.
He said: “Being the home team, I think they will be looking to take the game to us and set up to attack a bit more than they did at Ibrox.
“With the formation we have been playing, we have shown we can defend and nick a goal at the other end.
“We know it's going to be tough. They are a quality team and we just hope it goes okay on the night.”
McCulloch is keeping his fingers crossed that fellow midfielder Maurice Edu is passed fit for the match.
The American was forced out of the weekend draw with Inverness with a calf injury and has been rated doubtful, along with Vladimir Weiss who has a heel problem.
Edu netted against Unai Emery's men in the last game, before scoring an own goal to hand them a share of the points, and McCulloch believes he has a big part to play again.
He said: “He's an important player and he has started the season well. He fits into the system that we play really well so we are just hoping he makes it.”
Meanwhile, Valencia midfielder Joaquin has warned Rangers the Spaniards will treat their Champions League clash at the Mestalla tonight like a Cup final.
With Manchester United expected to top Group C and Bursaspor rooted to the bottom without a single point, it looks like being a straight fight between Valencia and Rangers for second place and a spot in the last 16.
“Rangers have always been a threat in this competition and still are,” he said.
“There are many points still to play for and Valencia have to depend on themselves. So we are going to take tomorrow's game as a final as it's a very important game.
“This is a very open competition so to get the three points tomorrow is very important for us.”
He explained: “It is the Rangers team itself which is the big danger for us, rather than any individual player.
“In the first game a couple of weeks ago in Glasgow it was very difficult and I expect it to be a similar game here.
“There is no particular player to be afraid of, it's the whole team. It's the way they can defend and the way they can break forward.”
Valencia drew with Real Zaragoza at the weekend, while Rangers lost their 100% record in the Clydesdale Bank Premier League after being held by Inverness Caledonian Thistle.
Joaquin said: “Valencia also only drew at the weekend and we hope to win the game so Rangers will be no different.”
Like Joaquin, Valencia coach Unai Emery refused to write Rangers off when the draw was made and refuses to talk down their chances now.
“I am not surprised by the challenge Rangers have mounted in the Champions League because I have seen them before and they are a great team and they are playing really well,” Emery said.
“The whole team is a threat with their compact squad and we know that winning this game is very important."