It could be a case of winner-takes-all in this week's ICC Intercontinental Cup match between European rivals Scotland and Ireland in Aberdeen.

The two sides are currently level at the top of Group A in the first-class competition for the leading Associate sides after each secured the maximum 20 points in victories over Namibia in May.

And both line-ups know if they can win the match that starts on Thursday then it would put them in pole position to secure top placing in the group and therefore reach the final.

A victory for either side would put huge pressure on the United Arab Emirates - currently in action in the Asian Cricket Council Trophy in Kuala Lumpur and yet to start its ICC Intercontinental Cup campaign - to overtake them to secure that top spot.

So, the stakes are high and are only increased by the local rivalries that are at play whenever Scotland and Ireland go head-to-head.

Ireland, for its part, goes into this match buoyed by its success in the recent European Championships, including a resounding win over Scotland.

In fact the whole of Irish cricket is on a high at the moment with all six of its youth and men's teams winning European titles this season.

Trent Johnston's side also carries with it the knowledge it won the corresponding fixture in last year's ICC Intercontinental Cup, a thrilling encounter that went down to the wire as Ireland got home by just three runs.

That defeat meant Scotland - the 2004 Champions - failed to defend its title while Ireland went on to succeed it as holders.

Ireland coach Adrian Birrell, looking forward to this week's match, told CricketEurope: 'It's a huge game for both, and whoever comes out on top will most likely make the finals.'

Ireland is without its prolific young batsman Eoin Morgan, who made 99 in the European Championship match against Scotland as he is back on duty for English county Middlesex, while young seam bowler Boyd Rankin has not been released by Derbyshire.

Those are two notable absentees but Ireland can still call on two of its other county-contracted players in wicketkeeper Niall O'Brien (Kent) and spinner Andy White (Northamptonshire).

That duo slot into a side that looks well equipped for all conditions with Kyle McCallan supporting White in the spin-bowling department while Johnston and Dave Langford-Smith form an effective new ball partnership.

Scotland is without the Warwickshire duo of all-rounder Dougie Brown and batsman Navdeep Poonia and will be keen to redress the perception in some quarters that Ireland goes into the match as favourites.

Its middle order of Fraser Watts and Ryan Watson have both made substantial scores this season with Watson's 165 against Namibia forming the bedrock of a match-winning total while Watts hammered 171 against Denmark in the European Championships.

On top of that duo, the Scots also have the experience of former England all-rounder Gavin Hamilton, these days playing as a specialist batsman, while with John Blain, the evergreen Paul Hoffman and Dewald Nel, the seam attack looks useful.

Scotland coach Peter Drinnen told CricketEurope: 'We managed to pull ourselves together during the Europeans, and there were some good individual performances.

'For a four-day game, however, we need everyone in the squad to make a contribution, and we are preparing ourselves for one of the toughest matches of our season.'

The other group in the ICC Intercontinental Cup, Group B, is currently headed by Canada, ahead of the Netherlands, Bermuda and Kenya. The final, set to take place in the first half of 2007, will be between the two group winners.

A new format this year means sides will play a minimum of three four-day matches in this tournament, increasing to seven four-day matches in 2007 and 2008 when the event will be a full round-robin format.

That compares to a minimum of just two three-day matches per year under the previous structure which, until the semi-finals, was regionally-based rather than global.

The ICC Intercontinental Cup was established in 2004 to give the leading players from Associate sides the chance to improve by exposing them to a longer form of the game.

The umpires for the match include Shahul Hameed, a member of the ICC Associate and Affiliate International Panel.

Scotland (from): Craig Wright (captain), John Blain, Gavin Hamilton, Paul Hoffmann, Ross Lyons, Dougie Lockhart, Neil MacRae, Neil McCallum, Dewald Nel, Colin Smith (wicketkeeper), Ryan Watson, Fraser Watts.

Ireland (from): Trent Johnston (captain), Andre Botha, Jeremy Bray, Peter Gillespie, Kyle McCallan, John Mooney, Paul Mooney, Niall O'Brien (wicketkeeper), William Porterfield, David Langford-Smith, Andrew White, Conor Mullan.

Umpires: Niels Bagh (Denmark) & Shahul Hameed (Indonesia)

Match referee: David Jukes