Bannan upbeat ahead of key games

The midfielder shone on his first competitive appearance for his country last month, always looking for possession and sending in numerous dangerous crosses.

The 21-year-old capped his impressive display with the ball that set up the only goal of the game for Steven Naismith as Scotland kept alive their play-off hopes ahead of the upcoming games against Liechtenstein and Spain.

Bannan has since started four matches for Aston Villa following an early substitute appearance at Everton immediately after his return from international duty.

The left-sided player has not suffered defeat in any of the six Premier League games he has featured in this season and he believes his form and fitness have improved since Craig Levein handed him his chance against Lithuania.

In a video interview with the Scottish Football Association, Bannan said: "The last game we got a great victory and went away with our clubs and have played more games so we will be a bit fitter.

"Playing with your club and getting more games, you are going to be improving every week.

"I have to say a big thank you to the gaffer here because my last game for Scotland against Lithuania played a big part in me getting back in with my club team."

Bannan does not feel any increased burden ahead of the final two qualifiers because of his crucial contribution against Lithuania.

"I wouldn't say added pressure, it just helps your confidence build," Bannan said.

"If you're confident going into games, probably nine times out of 10 you will do well.

"I'm really confident now because I'm playing games and just looking forward to every game that comes around."

Levein has suffered several blows to his midfield plans with Scott Brown out with an ankle injury and Darren Fletcher struggling to overcome tonsilitis in time to face Liechtenstein on Saturday.

Leeds wide man Robert Snodgrass today pulled out of the squad, with Wigan midfielder James McArthur called up, so Bannan is a good bet to start in Vaduz.

"It would be good but obviously it's the gaffer's decision," said Bannan, who had loan spells at Derby, Blackpool and Leeds in previous seasons.

"If I don't start in any of the games, I'm not going to cry.

"Obviously I would be angry and disappointed inside, who wouldn't be?

"But I will react in the right way and if need be I'll be ready to play."

Scotland assistant manager Peter Houston this week likened Bannan's ability to keep possession to Spain midfield pair Xavi and Andres Iniesta, the latter of whom will miss the visit of Scotland through injury.

But Bannan is trying not to look ahead to Tuesday's meeting in Alicante as Scotland bid to keep alive their qualification hopes.

Scotland need three more points than the Czech Republic from their final two games, with their rivals hosting Spain on Friday and visiting Lithuania on Tuesday.

"The next game is the biggest game in our heads," Bannan said. "We have got a tough game against Liechtenstein.

"The Spain game is probably the biggest one but we have got to concentrate on the first one or else the Spain game could count for nothing.

"Everyone that has come here believes in the squad qualifying for the championships.

"We have got to concentrate on our own performances first and foremost and hopefully the Czech Republic results go the right way.

"We have to concentrate on ourselves and hopefully Lady Luck shines on us."

With Kenny Miller doubtful for the Liechtenstein game with a groin injury and Fletcher unlikely to make it, Bannan would be happy to assume penalty duties.

Bannan tried to take the ball off skipper Fletcher before the Manchester United midfielder missed from the spot against Lithuania in the absence of the suspended Miller.

"I'm more than happy to take them but it's up to Kenny," said Bannan, who scored from the spot in Villa's recent 1-1 draw with QPR.

"Kenny's the penalty-taker and if Kenny's on the pitch he'll no doubt take it.

"If it's there to be hit and no-one wants to hit it, I'll take it."

Source: Team Talk