It’s all but do or die for Steve Clarke and his Scotland squad as the tartan army travel south to take on England.
A win, or even a draw, is the requirement to boost any hope of qualification to the last 16 – but perhaps more importantly the players who take the Wembley pitch will have a chance to carve their name into folklore, and gain undisputed legendary status with the Scotland support.
Hutchinson, Robertson, Dalglish, Law – 22 years since our last win in London, it’s time we added some more names to the history books. Here’s who we think will be selected tonight:
Goalkeeper – David Marshall
There’s definitely debate to be had on whether Marshall played a part in the Czech’s second goal on Monday – but we think Steve Clarke will stick by his number one tonight.
The former-Celtic keeper’s shot stopping is no doubt his primary attribute, however a hesitancy when coming to collect crosses as well as a tendency to parry most of the shots he saves arises the question of whether Gordon, or even McLaughlin, should be given the nod instead. This especially considering we’re likely to be under the cosh for large sections of the evening.
That being said the manager spoke firmly in his midweek press conference about how the half-way line lob was a total freak, and that no one should be singled out to blame. We see this as a bit of a hint that it’ll be Marshall between the sticks again.
Left wing back – Andy Robertson
The captain, and likely the first name on the team sheet, Andy Robertson will no doubt play tonight.
Whilst this is a more advanced role than his traditional left-back position on paper, the 27-year-old may be caged back for a majority of the game in order to deal with the talent our opposition possess in the forward areas.
If we’re to hit on the counter though – expect Robertson to be constantly busting a gut to get forward and support down his side, which could be a real asset to our plans.
Left centre back – Kieran Tierney
Written out of hope more than anything else – Steve Clarke assessing Kieran Tierney as ‘fit and ready’ has filled the tartan army with optimism about his chances of playing.
We have though seen managers before talk falsely before about players fitness, but after his comments midweek the manager surely knows just how much seeing a KT’less starting eleven would hammer the morale of his support.
For Scotland to play at our full potential Tierney simply has to fill this position – we hope he will, but we also think he will.
Middle centre back – Grant Hanley
A bit of a toss up between the Norwich defender and Liam Cooper, we think Hanley will start as the base of Scotland’s back-line for the third game running.
Whilst not particularly stealing the show by any means – the 29-year-old earned praise for an all-round solid performance in matchday one, which means we expect him to keep his place.
Fairly suspect positioning for the second goal was one of little black marks beside his name, but otherwise Grant Hanley played well enough to prove himself as international quality.
Right centre back – Scott McTominay
Our boldest call is an expectation Scott McTominay could return to defence rather than play in his natural midfield position.
An underwhelming at best display in front of the defence was perhaps one of the biggest disappointments to the tartan army, but the Man United academy graduate has proved before he can be a solid addition in the right side of a back three.
Shining in wins over Slovakia, the Czech Republic and Serbia towards the tail end of last year portrays that the bigger occasions may bring out McTominay’s best performances as a defender, none so may ever come bigger than tonight.
Right wing back – Stephen O’Donnell
A poor performance in the opening game may have sparked criticism from the Scotland support – but Steve Clarke passionately jumped to the defence of the Motherwell defender when he was questioned about his display.
The manager told the media through the week to “Analyse the game and tell me what Stephen did wrong?” Before assuring that not many if any of the Czech attacks came from down his side. If that’s not an indication he still backs his former club player, we’re not too sure what ever will be.
Of course even if Clarke was critical of SOD’s performance there’s no way he would have hung him out to dry to the media, however the extent his defence makes it appear Nathan Patterson and James Forrest’s backers might be left disappointed again.
Defensive midfield – Callum McGregor
Despite being a player of undeniable talent – Callum McGregor had a poor 2019/20 by his standards.
That being said, when things were clearly not working on Monday the Celtic midfielder was the one selected to inject a bit more control and energy back into the middle of the park.
With McTominay potentially dropping back, a space opens up in the position he would take, and we think McGregor is the most natural of anyone to step in. An argument may be made for Gilmour but we think Clarke will go for experience instead.
Central Midfield – John McGinn
Another that provides little explanation – John McGinn starting is almost as certain as the captain Andy Robertson.
In the crowd of talented Scottish midfielders currently playing their trade – the Aston Villa man is probably who the tartan army would call the most effective at our disposal.
If McGinn turns up Scotland’s chances of a result increase by tenfold – so if the hosts chose to field the likes of Henderson in the middle of the park, he could be our main chance of success.
Central Midfield – Stuart Armstrong
Similar to why we think it’ll be McGregor over Gilmour at the base, we think Steve Clarke will opt for Stuart Armstrong to play in central midfield ahead of David Turnbull.
Another to be labelled an underperformer on Monday Turnbull, or even John Fleck, might be seen as valuable options to bring in, but Clarke often is a manager who will stick strongly with what he knows.
Armstrong starting also depends on whether our prediction regarding McTominay comes true – should that not be the case, we would expect Armstrong to be dropped and McGregor still to come in.
Striker – Ryan Fraser
With Christie’s chances not looking great after being hooked at half-time – we expect Ryan Fraser to come in and take his place.
Fraser might not have had a great effect as an impact sub, but he has proved his pace in behind can be a useful attribute to add to our front-line.
With counters likely to be our main source of attack – it would make sense to bring Fraser into the fold over the likes of Dykes or Nisbet.
Striker – Ché Adams
Ché Adams might be the most highly-anticipated Scotland striker in recent history. Convincing the Southampton striker to play his international football at Hampden should be, and is, seen as a particularly impressive coup.
The 24-year-old though like Tierney missed out on a starting place against the Czech Republic with an injury knock. A devastating blow, but one slightly made better by his arrival as a half-time sub.
What we’d like to think is that if Adams’ fitness was still an issue that he wouldn’t have been risked in the opening game. However like Tierney we’ll very much be keeping our fingers crossed in hope.
Featured Image Credit – Sky Sports