Scotland only need a draw from tonight’s match against Ukraine in Poland to secure promotion to Group A of the next UEFA Nations League campaign.
One point will see them finish top and also mean they guarantee a qualifying play-off for the UEFA Euro 2024 finals as well as Pot 2 seeding for next month’s qualifying group draw.
Steve Clarke’s side dominated tonight’s opponents when they met at Hampden Park last week as they came away 3-0 winners but the former Kilmarnock boss will be missing several of his top performers from that fixture through injury and suspension.
Here is how we predict Scotland will line up for the crucial final game of the Nations League group and what it could mean for their chances of getting the result they need:
Which Scotland players are unavailable for Ukraine match?
The following players, who were named in the initial squad for the triple header of international fixtures, are unavailable for the match in Kraków:
- Kieran Tierney - injured
- Scott McKenna - injured
- Nathan Patterson - injured
- Scott McTominay - suspended
Steve Clarke has also been without the services of captain Andy Robertson who was not included in the initial squad through injury.
Other players currently missing through injury include Rangers goalkeeper Jon McLaughlin, Norwich City defender Grant Hanley, Celtic midfielder David Turnbull and Stoke City attacker Jacob Brown.
Not only that, but there are also doubts over the fitness of strikers Che Adams and Lyndon Dykes as well as full-back Aaron Hickey.
The two forwards were reportedly suffering from an unnamed illness earlier in the week while the Brentford defender was taken off in Saturday’s 2-1 win over the Republic of Ireland as a precaution.
Predicted Scotland starting XI to face Ukraine
Assuming he sticks with the 4-5-1 formation that has served him well in the past two matches, Steve Clarke’s two biggst decisions for the game will be at centre back and central midfield having lost Scott McKenna and Scott McTomiany - two of Scotland’s best performers in the past seven days.
The options to replace the Nottingham Forest man are Declan Gallagher, Ryan Porteous and Stephen Kingsley.
Gallagher has been out of the reckoning for his country for over a year after a disappointing spell with Aberdeen, but has rediscovered some of his previous form at St Mirren and is a player that Clarke has relied on before - he seems the most likely to get the nod alongside Jack Hendry at centre-back ahead of the uncapped Hibs players and the Hearts man who is more natural at left-back.
If Aaron Hickey is fit he should start at right back once again while Celtic’s Greg Taylor will likely play on the left with Robertson and Tierney both out and Craig Gordon will almost certainly retain his place in goal.
Callum McGregor is closing in on his 50th international cap and should once again start in the middle of the park where it will be up to either Billy Gilmour, Ryan Jack or Kenny McLean to replace the suspended Scott Mctominay.
Gilmour seems most likely to get the nod as he provides a better reading of the game than his Rangers counterpart but Jack is the larger, more physical of the two which is something McTominay also provided.
The attacking midfield three should see Ryan Christie and Stuart Armstrong once again play with captain John McGinn but Clarke may opt to rest either Christie or Armstrong in favour of Ryan Fraser.
If Lyndon Dykes and Che Adams are fit then that will be a tough decision as both earned plaudits in the first two matches but the Southampton man should start, with Dykes an option off the bench, as it was in the 3-0 win at Hampden last week.
Our predicted Scotland starting XI: Gordon, Taylor, Gallagher, Hendry, Hickey, McGregor, Gilmour, Christie, Armstrong, McGinn, Adams.
Ukraine vs Scotland result prediction
This game is a must win for Ukraine while Scotland only need a draw to top the group.
There was only one team in the game at Hampden Park for large spells last week and the 3-0 scoreline reflected a dominant performance by Scotland even if it did take until the 70th minute for them to find the breakthrough goal.
We don’t expect things to be quite so easy without the backing of a near sold out home ground to cheer the Scots on but Ukraine will have to offer more to trouble them.
Scott McTominay will be the biggest loss but McKenna is also going to be a difficult man to replace and those two were both key to keeping a clean sheet in the last meeting.
However, momentum is on the side for Scotland and because of that we’re predicting a close match that will end in a draw - securing Clarke’s side the result they need.
Our prediction: Ukraine 1-1 Scotland