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West Ham
By ESPN Staff

Hartley: Only victory acceptable for Scotland

Scotland midfielder Paul Hartley admits only victory against Lithuania at Hampden Park on Saturday will do if they want to reach the European Championship finals next summer.

Alex McLeish's side are in third place in Group B behind France - who they play next week in Paris - and Italy, with Ukraine in fourth position three points behind and having played a game less.

The Celtic midfielder, 30, made all the usual and expected noises about respecting the opposition but admits three points are crucial.

He said: 'We will give Lithuania the utmost respect. We had a tough battle over there when we played them.

'It's a very important game for us, a must-win game and we have to get the three points.

'We are looking forward to it. We go into the game with a lot of confidence and previous results have been very good.

'There are always expectations when you play for Scotland especially when you play at home.

'People expect us to just turn up and win but we know it will be a tough game.

'We know we have tough away fixtures so I think it is important to get the points on the board at home.'

Hartley has been in and out of the Celtic side this season but could start on Saturday at the expense of Barry Ferguson, who is serving a one-game ban.

The former Hearts player, however, dismissed suggestions of rustiness.

He said: 'I'm always ready.

'I played on Sunday (against St Mirren) and I was ready and if I'm selected against Lithuania then I will be ready.

'It's a strong squad that we've got and I just hope that I'm playing.'

Hartley warned the Scots fans to expect a different game than the exhilarating encounter against France last October when a Gary Caldwell goal gave Scotland a shock 1-0 win.

He said: 'During that game they had far more of the ball than we did but we managed to get the result.

'But Saturday will probably be a far different game. We will probably have more of the ball than Lithuania and we have to take responsibility.

'I think it will be a tense game. They will sit back and make it difficult for us and try and hit us on the counter-attack but it's up to us to force the issue and try and get the win.'