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Four-goal Faris dreams of AFC Cup final

By ESPN Staff

Morrison the latest Scots player to miss out

Scotland midfielder James Morrison looks set to miss tomorrow's World Cup qualifying opener in Macedonia.

The West Brom player, 22, suffered a knee injury in his club's goalless draw at Bolton on Saturday and has been unable to train since.

He had been in contention to start tomorrow afternoon's Group Nine clash in Skopje but coach Steven Pressley today revealed he is not expected to be fit.

'I wouldn't think so. James is still struggling,' Pressley said. 'We will give him every opportunity but he is a major doubt.'

Celtic's Barry Robson has been tipped to replace Morrison if he fails to recover.

Pressley revealed he was a strong contender for the role.

'He hasn't featured a great deal for Celtic so far this season but the way he played at the end of last season suggested that he is a very good midfielder and that's the reason he is in the squad,' Pressley said,

'He would bring a lot to the team and he's in our thoughts for the game.'

Scotland's stand-in captain Stephen McManus has also been carrying an injury but Pressley confirmed the Celtic defender had recovered from his ankle problem.

'He trained the last few days,' the coach said. 'Obviously, he got a knock in the Old Firm game but he has shown no effects from that and he'll be fine.'

As well as the injury problems that have so far seen six players withdraw from the squad, the main concern for manager George Burley has been the prospect of searing heat in Skopje.

Temperatures are expected to reach 36 degrees Celsius tomorrow, but Pressley insists every precaution has been taken.

'It's a consideration, rather than a concern,' he said. 'We need to make sure the players are properly refuelled for the game.

'We will also be taking that into consideration in terms of the way we go about the game. We still feel confident and we're desperate to get the right result.

'It's still early in the season. Fitness levels are at a high standard and that's a positive.'

Pressley believes the information provided by former national team boss Craig Brown on tomorrow's opponents will prove invaluable.

He said: 'I watched a number of DVDs on Macedonia and Craig Brown has given us an in-depth insight into them. There is no doubt they are a good team And their recent results reflect that.

'I still believe we can win the game. A draw would be a decent result but our intention is to win the game.'

Hearts midfielder Michael Stewart, called up this week as an injury replacement, insists Scotland will not take Macedonia lightly.

He said: 'The manager has spoken to us about a number of their players and we know they are quite danagerous in the final third.

'Craig Brown also ppoke to the team aw well but we need to focus on Scotland and what we can do to punish them.'

As for the prospect of running around in the heat, Stewart added: 'The players have not really spoken about it. I'm sure it will be addressed nearer the time.

'There is nothing we can do about it. We just have to get on with it.'


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