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Scotland aims to reign in Spain to clinch playoff

MADRID (AP) ― Manchester United midfielder Darren Fletcher should be fit to face Spain on Tuesday as Scotland aim to beat the world champion and secure a playoff spot for the European Championship.

Scotland must at least equal Czech Republic’s result at Lithuania to clinch second place in Group I.

Fletcher made a quick recovery from tonsillitis to captain Scotland in the 1-0 win at Liechtenstein on Saturday to draw praise from coach Craig Levein.

“He went above and beyond the call of duty,” Levein said. “He can’t be 100 percent after his illness during the week but he does it again, he turns in another fantastic performance.”

Scotland faces an uphill task against a Spain team that has won all its qualifying matches so far and has dominated the group.

“There must be no fear. If we go there with fear we will end up playing into their hands,” Fletcher said. “If we’re all doom and gloom it will affect our performance. We must go there with a bit of hope ― stranger things have happened.”

Craig Mackail-Smith scored his first international goal to beat Liechtenstein and is likely to start up front again as Kenny Miller struggles with a groin injury.

Levein said the Brighton striker had adapted quickly to international football. “It’s difficult to come into a team where none of the lads in the Scotland set-up play for Brighton so it’s not as if he’s got anybody alongside him who understands how he plays,’’ Levein said. “To get a goal on his first competitive start is a dream come true for him.”

While Fletcher’s return against Liechtenstein was a bonus, Liverpool’s Charlie Adam and Aston Villa winger Barry Bannan are doubts after picking up knocks.

“No fear” was a recurring theme as Levein looked forward to the Spain match. “It is a tall order, we understand that, but there is nothing for us to fear, that is the important thing, there is nothing to fear,” he said. “We are playing the world champions, of course, but we are in the position where if we win the game we qualify (for the playoffs).”

Scotland has 11 points going into the final match, one ahead of Czech Republic but with a worse head-to-head record.
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