KIM LITTLE has played in some hugely significant games throughout the course of her career, but few have carried with them the magnitude of the two that are next on her schedule.

Little is part of the national squad which will take on Switzerland on Thursday and then Albania next Tuesday in the final World Cup qualifiers of the current campaign, with the Scots knowing that two victories would see them qualify for their first-ever World Cup.

To do so though, will be no easy feat, particularly as Scotland must defeat the Swiss by two clear goals to keep their hopes of qualifying outright and avoiding the play-offs alive. The Swiss won the pair’s first qualifying match of the campaign, in April, by a single goal but with the Scots enjoying home advantage on Thursday, Little is optimistic that she and her compatriots can reverse that result at The Simple Digital Arena in Paisley.

“These games are huge for us,” the 28-year-old said.

“The first game is the one we’ll be focusing all our attention on because realistically, that’s all that matters for now. In the back of our minds, we know that we need to win the Albania game too but for me personally, I just take it one game at a time and try to be the best I can be in each game and that’s no different this week.

“All of us were pretty disappointed about the result in April. Yes, we were away from home but it wasn’t a good performance from us. We made one mistake and lost the goal and the game whereas if we’d maybe drawn that game, things might have been different.

“It was frustrating and disappointing and so we really just want to turn that around and put on as good a performance as we can. And I believe that with our strongest 11 and if we play to the best of our ability, we’re more than capable of beating the Swiss.”

Little has long been regarded as Scotland’s best player and but just over a year ago, the Arsenal midfielder ruptured her cruciate ligament, keeping her out of the game for almost a year. In a double blow for Little, she also missed last summer’s European Championships, being forced to watch her compatriots make Scotland’s debut in a major championships from the sidelines.

However, she has now been back in competitive action for six months and admits that things are going remarkably smoothly, although she still has a way to go before she returns to her peak.

“I feel like I’ve been back for longer than six months,” Little told Herald Sport.

“It was good to get back at the end of last season and get some games but even moreso, it’s been great to do a proper pre-season over the summer. I was strong after my rehab but it’s very different training to come back from injury to doing a pre-season as a team.

“I’m starting to feel closer to my best than I did in April or May because I’m constantly building up my fitness. I’m aware that I still have a few more steps before I’m back at my very best but it’s getting there.

“I’ve surprised myself how I dealt with my injury. I knew from the start that it was going to be about 10 months out and so I had to take it day by day and not expect too much. I completely believe that I’ll get back to where I was so it’s really important to have that patient mindset.

“I don’t feel apprehensive and actually, I haven’t felt like that at any point coming back so that hasn’t held me back in any way. Physically though, getting back to what you need to do in a match has been challenging just because it’s so high-speed and that speed is still something that I’m working on, especially at the very top-end.”

And while Little insists that she does not allow herself to think too much of World Cup qualification, it would, she admits, be a significant point in her career.

“It would be a huge achievement to get there,” she said.

“But I like to take things step by step and not look too far ahead - I believe if you do every step of the process right and prepare yourself in the best way possible then you’ll get the right result.

“And I believe that we, as a team, have done that and so we’ll do everything we can to make sure to produce the performances this week and next.

“It’s really exciting though - it’s great to play in games that mean something and where the outcome is so important. So I can’t wait for these matches.”

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