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Five Aside
By ESPN Staff

Ferguson to make call on Scotland availability

George Burley is ready to let Barry Ferguson decide whether he wants to lead Scotland out against Argentina.

Rangers captain Ferguson is back in the national squad following five months out recuperating from ankle surgery, and had been expected to reclaim the leadership of his country.

But his club boss Walter Smith has expressed doubts about whether he is fit enough to start Wednesday's glamour friendly.

Scotland manager Burley has spoken to Smith about Ferguson and plans to consult both player and coach before deciding whether to play the midfielder.

"I will speak again with Walter and Barry - because he has been out for five months and I have always said that, in a friendly, if anyone has a knock we will speak to them,'' said Burley, who last night lost Manchester United midfielder Darren Fletcher to injury.

"A lot of it is down to the player, and I wouldn't want to push Barry if he doesn't feel he could do his country justice. It's a big game, and international football is a step up.''

Burley has also held talks with Celtic boss Gordon Strachan, who will lose six of his players to Scotland in the midst of a hectic run of matches.

Burley said: "Celtic have had a lot of games - and as a club manager, you are always a little bit aware of all the games coming up. That is something we will look at, but the common factor is that all the guys are desperate to play.''

The manager is also eagerly anticipating pitting his wits against arguably the most gifted player of all time, with Diego Maradona set for his first match in charge of Argentina.

Burley believes a match against the South Americans is the perfect preparation for his side's daunting World Cup qualifier against Holland in March.

He said: "We are not going to go to Holland with fear - and if we can get a good performance against Argentina that will give us confidence going over to Holland.

"They are similar; they are both one of the top teams in the world, and I think it's a snowball thing. If we play the game with no fear and if we can match Argentina at home then that will give us good confidence.''

High-quality opposition is just what Burley wants.

"Especially in friendlies, it's nice to play the top teams,'' he added. "We could bring somebody because we think we could maybe beat them and win easily - but this is better for the players and the punters.

"You need a challenge, and this is a challenge. They could come here and be absolutely magnificent and beat us easily. But I'm being positive and I'm going to put out a positive team.

"I know I have a good squad of players, and we will give them a good game.''


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