Alex McLeish: Genk playmaker a threat to Scotland

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ALEX McLeish has warned his Georgian midfielder Tornike Okriashvili that he will face the consequences if he dampens Scotland’s Euro 2016 hopes at Hampden on Saturday.

Okriashvili is one of the top talents in McLeish’s Genk side and will undoubtedly be a key player for Georgia this weekend.

Tornike Okriashvili (right) is considered a big threat. Picture: Getty

Tornike Okriashvili (right) is considered a big threat. Picture: Getty

The 22-year-old scored a wonder goal against the Republic of Ireland last month to level the opening qualifying game despite his country ending up losing 2-1.

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Former Scotland manager McLeish and his assistant Alex Rae certainly do not want Okriashvili doing something similar against the Scots in a match that he feels Gordon Strachan has to win. And he has left Okriashvili in no doubt as to what will happen if he does.

McLeish said: “Alex and I have told him that if he scores a goal and Georgia win then we’re going to batter him. We have said we will allow him a goal if he surrenders the three points.

“He is a talent, no doubt about it and he scored a spectacular goal against the Republic in the last game and the Georgians will be looking for him to be a bit of a talisman against us as well. It’s not that he makes the play because he generally comes alive in the last third of the field.

“He is not a player who will go back and get the ball and spray it about. He is more of a threat in that No 10 role or getting beyond the strikers.

“I think the way Gordon sets the team up will make it hard for him because Gordon is quite good at smothering the centre of the midfield and that’s where Okriashvili does his best work.” McLeish knows it is vital that Scotland get their first win on the board if the two-decade absence from this tournament is to be ended and he feels his old Aberdeen team-mate Strachan can deliver.

Winning all of the home matches – perhaps the Germany game apart – will be crucial to qualification and points will also have to be collected on the road.

McLeish said: “Gordon has had the chance to stamp his style of play on the Scotland team and the players have responded accordingly. For a moment we had a wee chance of an upset in Germany last month but the Germans don’t become world champions for nothing. I would expect Scotland to beat Georgia at home but the Poland game next week will be very difficult as the Lewandowskis of this world might have something to say about it. However, I think we are going to have to get some kind of result away from home in the competition if we are going to get automatic qualification.”

McLeish has bitter-sweet memories of the Georgians as he faced them twice during his short, but encouraging reign as Scotland manager in 2007 when he came close to adding to Walter Smith’s good work and qualifying for Euro 2008.

The Scots won 2-1 at Hampden in his first match in charge with Kris Boyd opening the scoring, Shota Arveladze equalising and then Craig Beattie netting the winner. However, in the penultimate group game, the Scots lost 2-0 in Tbilisi which meant Scotland had to beat Italy at home in their final game, a game they lost 2-1.

McLeish, who has made a decent start in charge of Genk with four draws and a victory in the league, undoubtedly faced a far stronger Georgia than the one Temuri Ketsbaia will bring to Hampden, but that does not make Strachan’s task easy.

He added: “They had more players at bigger European teams than they have now but that does not make it any less of a challenge for Gordon than it was for me. It is still a game that you have got to win.”