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Football: MAC: GIVE US A BREAK; Jackie: Swede game is last thing we need before Gers and Barca clashes.

Byline: MICHAEL BAILLIE

JACKIE McNamara says Scotland's friendly with Sweden tomorrow is a game he could well have done without.

The Easter Road inter- national match has come at a bad time for Celtic - right before their crucial double header against Old Firm rivals Rangers in the SPL and Barcelona in the Champions League.

Caretaker boss Tommy Burns will be in charge of the national team for the first time tomorrow evening and McNamara is aware they have to get back on track after a disastrous start to the World Cup qualification campaign.

Determine

But the Celtic captain can't help letting his mind drift to club matters as the Hoops face a trip to Ibrox just three days after the Scotland game.

Four days later the Parkhead men take on Barcelona in the Nou Camp in a Champions League game which could determine their European future this season.

McNamara admits focusing on the Scotland game will be extremely difficult with such massive club business just around the corner.

He said: "It's at the back of everyone's minds. It's a big week ahead and the inter- national is maybe a game that's not ideal at the moment.

"It's come at a difficult time, but we have to be professional and take things from the game."

Meanwhile, Darren Fletcher believes moving the game to Easter Road is a bonus. The Manchester United midfielder said: "We had a good result the last time we were there - against Trinidad.

"A full ground with the fans behind us gives us a great chance. The pitch is a little bit tighter and it might end up suiting us.

"I know a good result would give the whole nation a lift after the disappointment of the last couple of results."

Stevie Thompson, Paul Dickov, Gary Naysmith and Colin Cameron have all withdrawn from the squad while decisions on skipper Barry Ferguson and Andy Gray will be taken today.

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CRUCIAL TIME: McNamara
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Nov 16, 2004
Words:326
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