George Burley insists the confidence he has in Scotland beating FYR Macedonia in tomorrow's vital FIFA World Cup™ qualifier boils down to the simple belief that his side are the "better team".
The under-fire Scotland boss will arrive at Hampden knowing that unless all three points are garnered against the second-placed Macedonians, then next Wednesday's final Group 9 match against the Netherlands at Hampden becomes meaningless - and he will almost certainly be out of a job. Burley's side have only racked up two wins in the qualification campaign - both against Iceland - and they were beaten 1-0 in Macedonia in the opening game of the campaign.
The 4-0 thrashing by Norway in Oslo last month increased the pressure on the Scotland boss, but at the pre-match press conference in Dumbarton he claimed that second place behind winners Holland, and a possible November play-off spot, is still achievable. Asked where his confidence came from the results in the campaign so far, Burley's reply was matter of fact.
He said: "I feel we've got a better team. But we've got to show that. The boys are confident, we have players in good form and we have a positive outlook. We know Macedonia are a good side, people say we would beat them easy but they are a good side.
I feel we've got a better team. But we've got to show that. The boys
are confident, we have players in good form and we have a positive
"The group is competitive, Norway are no mugs and we always knew it was going to be a tight group as far as finishing second was concerned. But we've certainly done our homework. We have had a good week's training, the boys are raring to go and we are in positive mood to get three points."
Burley paved the way for the return of Stephen McManus after Christophe Berra called off with a virus. The Wolves defender was sent home from the squad as a precaution but is expected to be okay for Wednesday night's game with Holland.
Berra's absence leaves Burley with just three centre-halves to choose from and Celtic captain McManus, fit again after a knee injury, is set to start his first game of the season alongside veteran Rangers skipper David Weir. Gary and Steven Caldwell are ruled out through suspension and injury respectively, while Darren Barr has won only one cap.
"Christophe has a virus and has gone home," Burley said. "He will come back on Sunday. But we still have three fit centre-halves to chose from. Stephen McManus has trained all week, he is desperate to play and I have been impressed with him.
"You have to use your own eyes. You judge his fitness, how he has performed in training and what type of lad he is. It's great when they are playing every week and have a lot of games under the belt but Stephen is as fit as a fiddle and is raring to go."