McNair expecting tough 'dream' debut

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Paddy McNair is well aware that he is in for a tough ride if his "dream" of playing for Northern Ireland comes true in Wednesday's friendly against Scotland.

The centre-back has made the breakthrough at Manchester United this season, making 12 Premier League appearances.

Having been forced to pull out of the previous Northern Ireland squad with injury, the teenager has yet to make his bow on the senior international stage.

That could change this week and it is an opportunity the 19-year-old is relishing.

"It [making my international debut] would be a dream come true if that happens," he said. "As a young boy it is a dream to play for your country.

"It's going to be tough. It's a game against another home nation and both teams want to win. It won't be a friendly.

"It's a game we can definitely win, though. We showed in the games in the qualifying group we can beat anybody.

"Scotland have some very good players. I've played against Steven Naismith earlier on this season and you can see why people rate him so highly."

If McNair is given the nod then he could line-up alongside club-mate Jonny Evans, who will be desperate for game time as he continues to serve a six-match domestic suspension for spitting at Newcastle United's Papiss Cisse.

However, Dundee United midfielder Paul Paton will not be involved after he withdrew from the squad on Monday with a knee injury.

The fixture with Scotland provides Northern Ireland with the perfect opportunity to warm up for Sunday's UEFA Euro 2016 qualifying encounter at home to Finland.

Michael O'Neill's side have excelled in Group F, winning three of their first four games as they seek to reach a major tournament for the first time since the 1986 World Cup.

Scotland will also view the match as a chance to get valuable game time under their belt.

Gordon Strachan's men sit third in a difficult Group D that includes world champions Germany, Poland and Republic of Ireland.

Scotland have proved competitive in qualification and a 1-0 win over Republic of Ireland in November has put them in with a great chance of qualifying.

And with a home fixture against Gibraltar to come on Sunday, Strachan should have improved their position by the end of the international break.

Strachan will be unable to call upon Fulham's Ross McCormack, though, as the striker pulled out of the squad on Monday, but Bournemouth's Matt Ritchie is in line to make his debut.

Scotland last met Northern Ireland in February 2011 and triumphed 3-0 on that occasion.