Scotland skipper Darren Fletcher does not buy in to the perception that Spain’s star striker Fernando Torres is struggling for form ahead of tonight’s crunch Euro 2012 qualifier in Alicante.
The Chelsea frontman was substituted after an hour of Friday’s 2-0 win over Czech Republic in Prague but coach Vicente del Bosque said afterwards that he saw Torres “in good form with a lot of energy and enthusiasm to be part of our team”, and thus looks set to keep him in against the Scots, who need a win to guarantee them a play-off spot. And, like the Spain boss, Fletcher remains impressed by Torres.
“I think his performances have been good since the start of the season,” said the Manchester United midfielder.
“Maybe he hasn’t had the goals but if you look at his overall performance he has looked hungry, dangerous and lively.
“Maybe he is a little too keen at times. I think his sending-off (for Chelsea against Swansea) was down to his sheer determination to do well and show people that he cares.
“But watching the game against Czech Republic the other night, he did his role for the team.
“He held a high line, he stretched the Czech Republic as much as he could and threatened in behind which gave the space for the creative players to keep the ball in midfield.
“So it was a fantastic performance for the team without getting the rewards of a goal.”
Del Bosque is considering rotating his squad tonight but Fletcher does not necessarily believe that will be an advantage to the Scots, who need to at least match Czech Republic’s result in Lithuania to retain the coveted second spot.
“I know from experience that if you change five or six players then it does take a while to get consistency,” the 27-year-old said.
“But whoever comes in will be world class and you have the other aspect that whoever comes in will also be desperate to do well, so there are two ways to look at it.”
Scotland boss Craig Levein is not reading too much into possible changes to Spain’s regular line-up either. He said: “There might be one or two who play who did not play against Czech Republic but if you could point out which ones are weak I would be very grateful. You know and I know that whoever they bring in will just pose a different type of challenge.”
Levein, though, stressed the importance of Fletcher to his side and claimed he is an aspirational figure to the other players.
“I think he flourishes with responsibility,” said the Scotland boss.
“His importance to this team is almost beyond words. Every player in our team will aspire to be as good as Darren Fletcher.”
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, 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. I’m not definitely ruling him out but he would be the most doubtful.
“Darren Fletcher and Craig Mackail-Smith will have fitness tests. I am more hopeful with those two than Kenny but as yet I can’t give any definitive answer.
“Barry’s problem is whether he can get his boot on so it doesn’t open up the injury again, it is in an awkward place.
“It is very difficult when there are so many important players who are doubtful. 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.”