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James McFadden wants Premiership battle to provide Scotland boost

James McFadden wants Premiership battle to provide Scotland boost
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Scotland begin their qualifying campaign in March.

Scotland's 2020 European Championship hopes can only be boosted by the competitive nature of this season's Ladbrokes Premiership, according to assistant coach James McFadden.

Rangers' 1-0 win over Celtic at Ibrox before the top-flight closed for the winter break took the Light Blues level with the reigning champions at the top of the table, with Kilmarnock one point behind and Aberdeen a further two back.

Scotland begin their Euro qualification campaign in March with an away double-header against Kazakhstan and San Marino, with Belgium, Russia and Cyprus also in the group.

McFadden, 35, believes the domestic battle among clubs who provide a chunk of the national team squad will be beneficial to Scotland boss Alex McLeish.

"When you have teams who are capable of beating each other up in the top half of the table, not just the top four, it is great," said McFadden, who will star for Scotland at the Glasgow edition of Star Sixes, a competitive six-a-side tournament for former internationals being held at the SSE Hydro on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

"It is competition. There are no games that are a given. Okay, we know Celtic are the best team but as Rangers showed they are human, they can be beaten.

"But Kilmarnock, Aberdeen, even down to Hibs (eighth), are all competitive and it is brilliant for the national team.

"These guys will be right on the edge with their club sides, at their best, ready to come away with Scotland for the start of something special.

"I really have so much belief in the squad and there will be one or two who will be added to the squad.

"I am looking forward to the nitty-gritty of the qualifiers and we will go in there with real confidence and belief."

Much of that optimism comes from Scotland winning their Nations League group in November with wins over Albania and Israel, which
provides another route to Euro 2020.

Scotland have a potential play-off at Hampden against Finland in March, 2020 – with a possible final against Norway or Serbia – but those matches will only be necessary should the Scots fail in the main qualifiers.

McFadden, however, insists all the focus will be on qualifying in the traditional manner.

The former Motherwell, Everton and Birmingham City attacker, who won 48 caps for Scotland, said: "It is there but it is in the back of our minds. The aim is to finish first or second and not to have to worry about it.

"It is going to be tough. Belgium are the best team in the world on their rankings and they have some unbelievable players.

"We have the beauty of having that play-off safety net but I hope we don't have to use it.

"We want a good start to the group. Kazakhstan away is going to be tough with the travel and timing of the game.

"But we aim to get a good start to the group and carry on the momentum of the previous two games."

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England manager Gareth Southgate pictured on November 18, 2018
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