Steve Clarke’s reign as Scotland boss begins with a match they must win to keep their hopes qualifying for Euro 2020 via the traditional route alive
A new era begins for Scotland on Saturday as Steve Clarke takes charge for the first time, leading his side into a European Championship qualifier with Cyprus.
Clarke’s appointment to the role of manager was virtually universally welcomed following the departure of Alex McLeish after a shambolic return to the position, which culminated in a 3-0 loss against Kazakhstan in March.
Some face was saved thanks to an unconvincing 2-0 win over San Marino three days later, though the Scots already face a battle to qualify for the 2020 tournament via this route and must surely overcome Cyprus to stand any kind of a chance.
|Game||Scotland vs Cyprus|
|Date||Saturday, June 8|
|Time||7:45pm BST / 2:45pm ET|
In the United States (US), the game can be watched on ESPN3. It can be streamed via Univision Deportes En Vivo
|US TV channel||Online stream|
|ESPN3||Univision Deportes En Vivo|
In the United Kingdom (UK), the game will be broadcast on Sky Sports Main Event. It can be streamed from Sky Go.
|UK TV channel||Online stream|
|Sky Sports Main Event||Sky Go|
Scotland have been boosted by the fact that they have not had a single injury call off. Andy Robertson arrived late to the squad following his exploits in helping Liverpool win the Champions League final last weekend, but the captain will doubtless feature.
Click Here: NRL league Jerseys
There are five uncapped players in the squad, including Kilmarnock trio Greg Taylor, Stuart Findlay and Eamonn Brophy.
Scotland starting XI: Marshall, O’Donnell, Mulgrew, McKenna, Robertson, McLean, McGinn, Forrest, Brophy, McGregor, Fraser.
Subs: Bain, McLaughlin, Palmer, Souttar, Findlay, McTominay, Russell, Armstrong, McNulty, Cairney, Burke, Taylor.
|Goalkeepers||Panagi, Pardo, Michael|
|Defenders||Demetriou, Merkis, Laifis, Dossa Junior, Vasiliou, Kousoulos, Ioannou, Wheeler|
|Midfielders||Efrem, Avraam, Artymatas, Kastanos, Margaca, Papoulis, Georgiou, Spoljaric|
|Forwards||Sotiriou, Mitidis, Makris, Antoniou|
Cyprus also have the luxury of a strong squad to select from. They could go with the same XI that was beaten 2-0 by Belgium last time out.
Cyprus starting XI: Pardo, Ioannou, N.Ioannou, Efrem, Sotiriou, Kousoulos, Makris, Spoljaric, Margaca, Artymatas, Laifis.
Subs: Petrou, Michael, Vasiliou, Katelaris, Antoniou, Mytidis, Avraam, Antoniades, Costi, Georgiou, Pittas.
Scotland are favourites to win this match with Bet365, priced at 8/15. Cyprus are 13/2 while a draw is available at 16/5.
Click here to see all of bet 365’s offers for the game, including goalscoring markets, correct score predictions and more.
Although there is renewed optimism around the Scotland national team thanks to the appointment of Steve Clarke as manager, there is a sense that the damage for this qualifying campaign has already been done.
A 3-0 loss away to Kazakhstan has left the Scots needing an unlikely sequence of results – probably involving three positive results in four matches against Russia and Belgium – in order to qualify for Euro 2020 via the traditional route.
Clarke, of course, will still consider this his chief aim, though a more realistic goal is perhaps via the Nations League, which McLeish guided Scotland to thanks to a 3-2 victory over Israel at Hampden in November.
The squad, though, is on a high. Captain Andy Robertson arrived in camp a Champions League winner with Liverpool, while Kenny McLean of Norwich and John McGinn of Aston Villa both played important roles as their respective sides won a spot in the Premier League next term.
Former Scotland international Tom Boyd expects Clarke to reprise the tough-to-beat style that the Scots employed under Craig Brown and Andy Roxburgh in the 90s, when they were qualifying for major tournaments.
“Stevie was the right choice and I have no doubts he will get Scotland playing with a bit of pride again,” he told the BBC, before reflecting on how his time with the national side can provide lessons for the current group.
“We might not have been the most entertaining teams, but we got to major championships because we were a very solid unit and worked our socks off and I think that’s what Stevie’s got to try to develop.”
Cyprus approach this match also on three points, albeit having lost a competitive home match against Belgium having thumped San Marino 5-0. However, they struggled in the UEFA Nations League C, the level Scotland won promotion from, relegated after winning only one of six fixtures.
While they represent a potentially awkward opening match for Clarke, it is certainly a winnable fixture and one in which the Scots simply have to take three points to keep the rest of their campaign meaningful.