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Nations League: What to expect from Steve Clarke's Scotland

Ahead of a crunch Nations League triple-header featuring two matches against Ukraine sandwiched between an encounter with Ireland, we take a look at what to expect from Steve Clarke's Scotland...

(This article was originally published on 20.09.2022)

Back with a vengeance

There is more than just Nations League points at stake when Scotland line up against Ukraine and Ireland. There’s pride on the line. After two dismal defeats against their upcoming opponents in the summer – a heartbreaking 3-1 loss to Ukraine in the World Cup play-offs semi-final followed by a shocking 3-0 defeat to Ireland in the Nations League – Scotland will be on the hunt for revenge.

In this sense, Scotland manager Steve Clarke’s team talks are likely to already be written. After failing to give a good account of themselves over the summer, in games which were winnable on paper, this international break provides an opportunity for redemption.

With two of Scotland’s last three Nations League matches at home in front of packed Hampden crowds, there is no reason why they can’t reverse the results of the summer and come away with six points to put themselves in the driving seat in the group.

You can back Scotland to beat both Ukraine and Ireland in their next two Nations League fixtures at Hampden at odds of 4.14/1.

McTominay and McGregor midfield base

Scotland’s chances of success will be bolstered by the recent club form of players such as Manchester United’s Scott McTominay and Celtic’s Callum McGregor.

With new Brighton signing Billy Gilmour having made just one competitive appearance off the bench so far this season, there is a real chance Scotland boss Steve Clarke could elect to move McTominay from his usual position in defence for the national team into his more natural midfield role.

Given the quality of McTominay’s recent performances in the Premier League for Manchester United, which have kept big-money signing Casemiro out of the team, such a change in roles could help galvanise this Scotland side in the games ahead.

His power and athleticism could complement Callum McGregor well in midfield, with the Celtic captain more renowned for his technical traits such as his composure and playmaking ability.

Scotland were overrun in midfield against Ukraine in the World Cup play-offs, with McTominay’s lack of defensive awareness in the back three also costing the team on more than one occasion.

It therefore makes sense to make this tactical adjustment, and give the Manchester United man a fresh opportunity to inspire his country to success in his favoured position.

Adams in attack

With a solid-looking midfield base behind him, it is Southampton’s Che Adams who looks primed to lead Scotland’s attack in this crunch international break.

With Clarke appearing to favour a 3-4-2-1 formation in recent fixtures, it is likely Adams will be deployed as a lone striker with two attacking midfielders such as John McGinn, Saints teammate Stuart Armstrong or the recalled Ryan Fraser supporting in behind him.

Despite a sketchy international goal record, with 5 goals in 19 caps for Scotland, everything will go through the 26-year-old in attack, and he should in turn be presented with chances to score.

Some goalscoring inspiration may well be required from Che Adams if Scotland are to get the results they need when you consider the fact Steve Clarke’s men have failed to keep a clean sheet in each of their last 6 outings.

Scotland to win, both teams to score and Che Adams to score anytime has been boosted from 9/1 to 12/1 by bet365.

All to play for

With seven points from their remaining three fixtures possibly enough to seal top spot in the Nations League group, it is all to play for as far Steve Clarke’s men are concerned.

This projected points total would require the Scots to go unbeaten in the upcoming triple-header, and beat group favourites Ukraine either at home or away.

The fact Ukraine currently play their home matches in Warsaw as a result of the Russian invasion is a cause for confidence, though, with Scotland’s home match to be in front of a likely sold out Hampden crowd.

The incentive is therefore clear for Scotland in the three games to come, with the opener at home to Ukraine pivotal with regards to their chances of winning the group. A victory could help fill the team with the confidence required to get the job done in the final two games, with defeat all but ending their hopes.

bet365 have priced it at 9/4 for Scotland to win their Nations League group.

Scotland squad for the Nations League fixtures vs Ukraine and Ireland:

Goalkeepers: Craig Gordon (Hearts), Jon McLaughlin (Rangers), Liam Kelly (Motherwell).

Defenders: Nathan Patterson (Everton), Anthony Ralston (Celtic), Jack Hendry (Cremonese), Grant Hanley (Norwich City), Ryan Porteous (Hibernian), Scott McKenna (Nottingham Forest), Kieran Tierney (Arsenal), Greg Taylor (Celtic), Aaron Hickey (Brentford).

Midfielders: Callum McGregor (Celtic), Scott McTominay (Manchester United), Billy Gilmour (Brighton), Ryan Jack (Rangers), Kenny McLean (Norwich City), David Turnbull (Celtic), John McGinn (Aston Villa), Stuart Armstrong (Southampton).

Forwards: Ryan Fraser (Newcastle United), Ryan Christie (Bournemouth), Jacob Brown (Stoke City), Che Adams (Southampton), Lyndon Dykes (QPR).

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