For Gordon Strachan’s Scotland, it’s a must win game against Group F runners-up Slovenia. Scotland are in the 5th position on the Group table and a distant 4 points from their March 26 rivals. Their only win was a 1-5 away in Malta, but a 1-1 draw against Lithuania and 0-3 losses to England and Slovakia have almost pushed the Scots out of contention. The Hampden Park home clash gives them the opportunity to reverse this downward trend. Gordon Strachan feels he has nothing to lose by choosing first time call-ups Stuart Armstrong (midfielder- Celtic), Tom Cairney (midfielder- Fulham) and Ryan Fraser (midfielder- Bournemouth). Cairney looked brilliant in Fulham’s 1-3 win over League 1 contenders, Newcastle, earlier this month and looks good for the starting XI against Slovenia and do Armstrong and Fraser. Aberdeen left back Graeme Shinnie and central midfielder Kenny McLean have been given the pass. Robert Snodgrass (West Ham) will be Scotland’s mainstay in their search for goals although the £10 million striker has drawn a blank in the 7 matches he has featured for the Hammers since his transfer from Hull City in January. Strachan could opt for strikers who have shown more success this season, viz. Steven Fletcher (Sheffield Wednesday – 7 goals), Chris Martin (Fulham – 12 goals) and Leigh Griffiths (Celtic – 14 goals). David Marshall (Hull City) or Craig Gordon (Celtic) could make it to the final XI as the No. 1 goalkeeper choice for the March 26 clash.
Although on the 2nd spot in Group F, Slovenia have somehow labored getting to that position. A narrow 0-1 win over Malta, a 2-2 draw with Lithuania, a 0-0 draw against England and 0-1 win over Slovakia have marked their WC 2018 Qualifier journey so far. The draw against Lithuania and the win over Slovakia will hold them in good stead, though, as both were tough away matches.
One of the easiest decisions for Slovenian coach Srecko Katanec to make will be the selection of a goalkeeper in the form of Jan Oblak, who probably is among the best in the business today. Apart from Oblak, the defence could comprise players like Andraz Struna, Miral Samardžic, Bostjan Cesar, Bojan Jokic, the midfield with Rene Krhin, Benjamin Verbic, Rok Kronaveter, Josip Ilicic, Jasmin Kurtic and striker Roman Bezjak manning the upfront. Although Slovenia have been low on goals (just 4 from an equal number of outings), they will be a very difficult side to score against.
The Hampden Park affair could be an Even-Stevens affair with bookmakers giving a slight edge to the hosts and fair odds for a draw, too.
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