Scotland will get the new UEFA Nations League campaign underway on Friday night when they take on Israel at Hampden in the first game of a double-header with the Czech Republic and Tartan Army boss Steve Clarke faces some tough decisions over his starting XI.
With injuries and Covid-19 restrictions wreaking havoc with his selections, there’s an unfamiliar look about Clarke’s squad for the first international game November’s win over Kazakhstan.
— Scotland National Team (@ScotlandNT) August 25, 2020
With Scotland still having the playoffs from the last edition of the Nations League to play next month, and many of the squad only just returning to pre-season, there’s something of a disjointed feel to this international window for Clarke and his squad.
Despite that, the revamped 2020/21 edition offers a second chance to qualify for the 2022 FIFA World Cup with games taking place over September, October and November.
The Hampden clash could well be the first step on the road to a first World Cup since 1998 for the Tartan Army and here we look at how we think Steve Clarke’s side will line up at Hampden.
The keeper has started the season in tremendous form following his move to Rangers and seems the likely choice to get the number one jersey. With David Marshall only just back in training with Derby County and Robby McCrorie in the senior squad for the first time, McLaughlin should pick up cap number three.
The Leeds United captain is just coming off the back of helping the Elland Road side return to the Premier League and seems a natural fit as one of three central defenders in the side. The 29-year-old has taken a massive leap forward under Marcelo Bielsa at Leeds and was every bit as impressive as Ben White last season on the way to the title.
McKenna has picked up where he left off last season for Aberdeen and has helped the Dons to a strong start to the campaign so far. The centre-back has helped the Dons to clean sheets in three of their five games so far.
Despite being a left-back by trade, Tierney has impressed at left centre-back for Arsenal and it seems as though he’ll be playing in a more central position in Dark Blue. The inclusion of Greg Taylor in the squad suggests that Clarke isn’t going to use Tierney at left-back so a role in a defensive three seems most likely.
The Celtic star can fill in a variety of roles and he could be deployed as a right wing-back to give Scotland some real attacking intent down the right. It’s a position he has filled regularly for Celtic over the years and one he knows well so there wouldn’t be much of a gamble there. If Clarke goes with a back four, Forrest is most likely to miss out but the right wing-back seems perfect for him.
The Rangers midfielder is another who has started the season in great form and deserves a place in Clarke’s starting XI against Israel. Jack has anchored the Gers midfield brilliantly under Steven Gerrard and would likely perform a similar role or Scotland to allow others to get forward more regularly.
McGinn’s star continues to rise after an impressive campaign for Aston Villa saw him linked with big-money moves away from Villa Park. Alongside Jack, McGinn can help Scotland dominate possession and control the game against the Israelis. Always capable of making something happens and will surely be a key player through the campaign.
Manchester United star has only had a couple of weeks off this summer after Ole Gunnar Solksjaer’s side competed in the Europa League finals in Germany. Has quickly made himself one of the first names for the national team and will have a vital role on Friday night as Scotland look to get the campaign off to a good start.
Maybe something of a surprise starter but maybe a necessary one to get the best out of others in the side. After a season in Spain, Burke is a different player than the one fans remember during his loan at Celtic and should help Scotland really get the most out of his strike partner…
The newly-signed QPR striker seems destined to follow up his move to the Championship from Livingston with his first international cap. Hopefully, he can also add his first goal (or two) in dark blue and get Clarke’s side off to a winning start. Will be interesting to see how he adapts to international football and just how he does with much better players around him.