Concentration key for Scotland, says Craig Levein

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The Independent Football

Scotland manager Craig Levein believes the key to success in tomorrow night's crunch Euro 2012 qualifier against Spain in Alicante could be in his players' heads.

The Scots are one point ahead of the Czech Republic going into their final Group I fixture and need to match the Czechs' result in Lithuania at least if they are to secure a play-off spot.



However, Scotland's task is immeasurably tougher against the world and European champions who are already qualified and looking to finish the section with maximum points.



Levein, speaking from the team hotel in La Manga, stressed the importance of the mental side of the game when playing against the star-studded Spaniards.



"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."

PA

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