STEVEN Fletcher says he is relishing his international duel with Sunderland team-mate John O’Shea this week.
The two Black Cats will find themselves on opposite sides when Scotland take on the Republic of Ireland in a Euro 2016 qualifier this Friday at Celtic Park – and the result of their personal battle could go a long way to deciding the game’s outcome.
But Fletcher says he is not worried about going up against a player who knows his game inside out and is instead more focused on the fact that the Republic have shown qualification for Group D’s big guns - Germany and Poland - is not a foregone conclusion.
Fletcher smiled: “I’m looking forward to going up against Sheasy!
“I’ve been running rings around him in training, so hopefully I can continue that!
“The more important thing though is that we definitely feel we’ve got a chance of qualifying.
“When everyone looked at the group to start with, everyone picked out Germany and Poland as their two teams.
“But both Ireland and us have shown that we are more than capable of getting through.”
The Republic are joint top of the group with Poland after taking seven points from their three games thanks to a 7-0 thrashing of Gilbraltar, a 2-1 win in Georgia and holding World Champions Germany to a 1-1 draw in the Stadion Gelsenkirchen courtesy of O’Shea’s last-gasp equaliser.
Scotland meanwhile are level with Germany having taken four points from three games, which included a 1-0 win over Georgia.
But Fletcher feels that Scotland, like himself, are in resurgent form and fancies his country’s chances when skipper O’Shea brings the Irish squad to Glasgow under the leadership of former Sunderland managers Martin O’Neill and Roy Keane.s
“I think the Ireland games are going to very important ones for us,” reflected the £12m striker, who bagged two goals in the 3-1 win over Crystal Palace at the start of this month.
“I’ve been pleased with my performances for Scotland and think I’ve just unlucky not to get a goal.
“But I’ve been happy with the way I played and hopefully I can keep that going.
“As an international side, we’re definitely moving forward now under the manager and even the staff behind the scenes.
“I’m not saying that people didn’t want to go and play for their country before but we’re getting the same squad every time now.
“Normally you’d have four or five players pulling out but now we have the same squad every trip and that helps to create a team.”