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Fletcher compares Bannan to Xavi, Iniesta and Scholes

Scotland captain Darren Fletcher believes Scotland's latest recruit has what it takes to emulate the best midfielders in the game.

Fletcher compares Bannan to Xavi, Iniesta and Scholes
©SNS Group

Darren Fletcher has lavished praise on Scotland debutant Barry Bannan, comparing him to Spain’s diminutive midfield partnership and a Manchester United legend. Aston Villa midfielder Bannan has been chosen to line up alongside Fletcher in Craig Levein’s team when they take on the Faroe Islands on Tuesday night.

Having played a major part in Blackpool’s rise to the English Premier League while on loan at Bloomfield Road last season, 20-year-old Bannan has returned to the Midlands and established himself as a regular pick in Gerard Houllier’s Villa side.

His selection in central midfield directly up against international team-mate Fletcher in a weekend draw between Villa and Man United further signified his rise to the top, marking his ninth appearance of the season.

After starring in England’s top flight and at Under-21 level, Bannan has been fast tracked by Craig Levein to Scotland’s senior squad. Fletcher though believes the Airdrie-born player is ready to shine, linkening his style to those regarded as the best in world football.

“I think he is in the mould of the best midfielders in the world,” Fletcher said of Bannan. “At that size, there's Xavi, [Andres] Iniesta and Paul Scholes.

“He’s taken to the Premiership like a duck to water. He's comfortable in there and he is confident of his own abilities.

“This match won't faze him. He is excited about being in his first Scotland squad and maybe getting his first cap.

“But, knowing the type of player he is, I don't think it is going to faze him. He will go out there and put on a performance like he has been doing for Aston Villa.”

An unprecedented amount of call-offs through injury has resulted in nine players without caps being called in for the Faroes game, with two – Bannan and Liverpool defender Danny Wilson – guaranteed to get their international careers off to a start.

Paul Caddis, Steven Saunders, Cammy Bell, Craig Bryson, Murray Davidson, James McArthur and David Goodwillie are also in the squad. But their captain has dismissed notions the young players aren’t cut out for the top, insisting the experience will benefit their long-term chances of becoming established international players.

“I think they will be excited that there'll be a few of them maybe getting their first cap for Scotland,” said Fletcher. “There's a lot of them in the squad [for the first time], so it is an exciting time.

“They are good players. They wouldn't be here if they weren't. The manager has taken the opportunity to take a look at them and give them a chance. There are a few older, experienced players in the squad who will help them through.

“They will experience it for themselves and they will learn for themselves. They will enjoy it and they are good enough to play at this level.”

SCOTLAND PREPARE FOR FAROES FRIENDLY

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