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By ESPN Staff

Fletcher ready for tough test

Darren Fletcher believes Scotland could upset the odds and get a point against Spain in their final Euro 2012 Group I qualifier in Alicante on Tuesday night - but knows that might not earn in a play-off spot.

• The race to Euro 2012: Who can qualify
• Blog: The hope that kills us>

Craig Levein's men are one point ahead of Czech Republic going into the last set of fixtures and a win against the world and European champions would guarantee them second place.

However, the Scotland skipper knows that in order to do that they will have to stop the Spanish juggernaut which is hurtling towards a clean sweep of Group I wins, while the Czechs have the easier task in Lithuania.

With different possible scenarios in mind, the Manchester United midfielder anticipates a fraught night.

"To speak about getting a point, although it might be a great result, it might be irrelevant, it might not be enough,'' he said. "We know going into the Spain game that it is in our hands and if we win we will finish in second place.

"But we might lose and be in second place and we might draw and not be in second place so it is going to be one of those nights.

"We can only try to do our best and we will give it everything and although people are maybe writing us off, while there is still a chance we will keep believing.''

Fletcher, who is confident of shaking off an ankle knock picked up in the 1-0 win over Liechtenstein in Vaduz on Saturday night, reiterated the enormity of the task awaiting the Scots.

"We are under no illusions,'' he said. "There is no question that Spain are the best side we've played against, they are European and world champions and they have not been beaten in a long time. They will have the majority of possession.

"I watched them against the Czech Republic the other day and they had 65-70% of the ball. So we have to go with a game-plan

"If we open up too much and try to take the game to Spain then I think we would get punished and be out of the game fairly quickly. So I think in that respect it is going to be difficult.

"The biggest thing is that we won the match against Liechtenstein the other night which put us into second place, and it puts the pressure on the Czech Republic.

"Hopefully Lithuania do us a favour as well which would be nice.''

Scotland manager Craig Levein believes the key to success could be in his players' heads.

"Concentration will be important,'' he said. "I am not worrying about their application because I know we will get that. But concentration is a huge part. We will have to concentrate for 90 minutes and however more than 90 minutes we have to play.

"That means players not switching off for a second and allowing the ability of the Spanish to hurt us. As you can imagine, constantly trying to take in information with your eyes and react to where the ball is on the pitch is mentally tiring.

"The ball changes position so often and so quickly, all it needs is one lapse in concentration to result in a chance for Spain. But we understand that, we understand what we are facing.''

Levein stressed that his players will not suffer from an inferiority complex against the Spanish, who are now widely regarded as one of the best international sides of all time.

"They won't be overawed by the occasion,'' said the former Hearts and Dundee United boss. "We have players who play week-in, week-out in the (English) Premier League and we have players with self-belief and those two things help.

"It is not just that, it is the belief in each other and the team which is important. Also, our players see Spanish players every weekend on television and play against them so there are no hidden secrets.

"We know what to expect and we are determined to do our best to win the match.''

Levein insists the narrow 3-2 defeat by Spain in October last year was a watershed for his squad.

"I took encouragement from the way we played and that we scored goals,'' he said. "In my eyes the players kicked on after that game, that was the start of the progress.

"There is no doubt that Spain's competitive record is exemplary. But I am greatly encouraged by what we are doing. I think we are a much better team than we were a year ago. I see the vast improvement and the players' self-belief has gone up a couple of levels.

"We have nothing to fear in this game, it is important that everyone understands that. We see this as a challenge, not something to be afraid of but something to relish.''

Levein's injury worries means he will delay naming his team until the morning.

Striker Kenny Miller is still struggling with a groin complaint which kept him out of Saturday's 1-0 win over Liechtenstein in Vaduz.

Craig Mackail-Smith, who scored his first goal in his first start for Scotland, has a back problem, skipper Darren Fletcher suffered an ankle knock and Barry Bannan had to have a cut on his Achilles glued together.

Should both Miller and Mackail-Smith fail to make it, Blackburn's David Goodwillie will play the lone striker's role.

Asked about injuries, the Scotland boss said: "Where to start? The most doubtful will be Kenny. He hasn't improved from Friday until today. I'm not definitely ruling him out but he would be the most doubtful. Darren Fletcher and Craig Mackail-Smith will do a little bit today and will have fitness tests tomorrow.

"I am more hopeful with those two than Kenny but as yet I can't give any definitive answer. Barry will do a little bit today. His problem is whether he can get his boot on so it doesn't open up the injury again, it is in an awkward place.

"We are hopeful that we can put some sort of padding or strapping that will prevent it from opening up tomorrow. It is very difficult when there are so many important players who are doubtful.

"So it will be tomorrow before I find out. But we will play the same system. Goodwillie played against Lithuania and did very well. Players are in the squad because I believe in them and if he needs to play he will play.''

Levein does not believe Scotland's chances of making the play-offs will be made any easier even if Vicente Del Bosque rotates his squad.

The Scotland boss said: "He (Del Bosque) said he would try to give everyone in the squad a game. If that is the case, then a lot of the big-hitters were playing on Friday night against Czech Republic.

"But their strength-in-depth is phenomenal. It's not as if they are going to bring in young guys who have never played before or are not up to the required standard but we have to wait and see.''

Levein insists there will be no need to motivate his players for the game against a side who are looking to complete a clean sweep of wins in the qualifying campaign.

"This game is quite easy for me because we know what we have to do,'' he said. "It's just a case of going out, defending properly and trying to score. It's going to be a difficult match and we will probably be defending for the majority of the match.

"I have no doubt that the defenders will need to be our best players and our goalkeeper will need to be on top of his game but ultimately, we need to make chances and score goals, or a goal.''


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