Team-mates could go head to head

West Ham United left-back George McCartney is relishing the prospect of an "interesting battle" in Euro 2008 qualifying with club colleague Freddie Ljungberg.

McCartney's Northern Ireland go to Stockholm on Wednesday night to meet Group F leaders Sweden knowing that defeat would virtually end their hopes of qualifying. With three matches to play, the visitors are six points adrift of both their opponents and Spain. Ljungberg, meanwhile, will be aware victory would confirm at least a top-two finish in the section and a place at next summer's finals in Switzerland and Austria.

While the 26-year-old McCartney - along with his club and country coach Glynn Snodin - had a free weekend, Ljungberg featured for Sweden in their 3-0 victory in Liechtenstein. The midfielder opened the scoring with a fine finish before being substituted as half-time approached as a precautionary measure, having picked up a knock to his calf. With four days to recover, his club-mate is hopeful the pair will both be in action, even if that is the extent of his goodwill.

McCartney said: "I think Freddie normally plays on the left for Sweden but if he is on the right and I am playing it will be a very interesting battle. He is a top player for club and country so I will just be keeping an eye on him and making sure he has as quiet a game as possible."

Two wins and a draw could be enough for Northern Ireland to make it to Austria and Switzerland, provided Spain fail to beat Sweden when they meet next month. However, McCartney is not underestimating the difficulty of repeating the 2-1 victory achieved at home against the Scandinavian nation last March.

"It's going to be very tough," he said. "We obviously beat them in Belfast which was a fantastic result for us but they will be a much tougher proposition on their own turf. We know how important it is to get three points in this game to have any chance of qualifying so we will be playing our hearts out and doing everything we can to get the three points."

Elsewhere on Wednesday, Christian Dailly, on loan at Southampton, will hope to figure in Georgia as Scotland look to take another step towards the finals, having got 30 minutes as a substitute in Saturday's 2-1 defeat of Ukraine. Wales duo Danny Gabbidon and captain Craig Bellamy should play in the trip to San Marino, having played the whole of the 3-1 weekend reverse in Cyprus. James Collins scored the principality's goal in that contest but then had to go off with a calf problem.

Check out the West Ham United matchday programme against Sunderland this Sunday for an exclusive six-page feature on George McCartney.