Scotland skipper Darren Fletcher will start the World Cup qualifier against Wales after declaring himself fit. The news comes after the Manchester United midfielder was out of action for 11 months with a chronic bowel complaint.
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“I feel fit, I feel strong and I feel ready for the games,” said the 28-year-old. “It’s great to be back. I’m just desperate to start. Hopefully I’m playing and I can do my part in getting a good result for Scotland.”
Fletcher has made three appearances for United since boss Sir Alex Ferguson decided he was ready to return in mid-September. Now Scotland manager Craig Levein is delighted to be call on him for the vital double-header, starting with Friday’s match against Wales in Cardiff.
“When Sir Alex thinks Darren is capable of starting, that tells me he’s back to the point where he is capable of playing in any situation,” explained Levein, whose side have collected just two points from their opening two qualifying games.
Striker Steven Fletcher returns from the international wilderness and will look to carry on his good form in the Premier League. Wales manager Chris Coleman will be hoping to get his first win after losing all four of his games in charge of the Welsh national side.
Coleman was in a bullish mood when questioned about his side’s chances, “Once you start worrying and looking at the negative side of things, it stops you making the right decisions. Craig will do what he feels is right to win the game and I’ll do the same. He won’t be worried about us and vice versa. When you’re stuck in a corner, there’s only one way you can go and that’s fight your way out.”
Wales are without defender Adam Matthews after the highly-rated Celtic full-back failed to shake off an ankle injury. He joins Neil Taylor and James Collins and a whole host of others on the sidelines. However, a big boost comes with the news that Gareth Bale is fit to play despite doubts over a heel injury.
Joe Ledley is also available in midfield despite a knock but long-serving forward Craig Bellamy is missing. Jason Brown is expected to start in goal due to the absence of Boaz Myhill and Wayne Hennessey while Steve Morison and Sam Vokes are likely to start up front for Wales.
Darren Fletcher, Steven Fletcher and Scott Brown all have returned to the Scotland squad for the encounter in Cardiff. The Sunderland striker has scored five goals in six games since his summer move while the Manchester United midfielder bolsters a midfield that has looked unconvincing of late.
Robert Snodgrass and Jordan Rhodes both were forced to withdraw from the squad because of injuries, while Steven Naismith is suspended.
One to watch:
Wales – Wales received a real boost when Gareth Bale was declared fit, the Tottenham Hotspur midfielder carry a threat with his pace and power down the left flank. Bale has the ability to change the game for Wales, his performance could make or break Wales tonight.
Scotland – The Fletcher’s return to Scotland will strengthen the team and much will depend on whether Darren Fletcher can put in an 80 or 90 minute performance. Steven Fletcher returns to international competition and will be looking for a good performance as he seeks to secure his international career. He question remains, can Fletcher bring his goalscoring form for Sunderland with him onto the international scene?
Wales 2-1 Scotland
Wales have won four of the last six times the two teams have met but lost the last encounter and have lost their last five matches scoring just one goal. The stats are equally bad for Scotland who have lost ten and won just four times in their last 16 away matches. With home advantage, Wales should edge the contest.
Wales: Price, Gunter, Williams, Blake, Davies, Vaughan, Ledley, Ramsey, Allen, Bale, Morison.
Scotland: McGregor, Hutton, Caldwell, Berra, Fox, Fletcher, D, Brown, Morrison, Commons, Maloney, Fletcher, S.