SCOTLAND manager Gordon Strachan will rely on a group of mostly tried and trusted players to re-ignite his side’s Euro 2016 qualifying hopes against Poland and Gibraltar.
The first of those assignments, against the Poles at Hampden next Thursday, was branded a game “we need to win” by Strachan.
Although that is not strictly the case, Scotland are reliant on results elsewhere to qualify for a play-off place. On the same night as Scotland, currently in fourth place, host Poland, third-placed Ireland entertain Germany.
“You’ll know by the crowd,” Strachan said, when asked whether he has plans to keep a radio by his side for score-updates from Dublin.
But Scotland must first concentrate on ensuring they get a result against Poland and the 27-man squad named by Strachan yesterday contained few surprises.
The manager did deliver news that those members of the Tartan Army pressing for Jordan Rhodes’ return to the squad wanted to hear.
The Blackburn Rovers striker has scored five goals in his last four club appearances and is included for the first time since March, when he later withdrew because of injury.
Kevin McDonald, the Wolves midfielder, is in line to win his first cap after being called in, as is Graeme Shinnie, the Aberdeen left-back.
Strachan said he was “optimistic, but not blindly optimistic” about Scotland’s chances of qualifying. “I think we’re as good as Poland and the Republic of Ireland, that’s for sure,” said Strachan. “And we have proved that up until now.”
Strachan tried to take the focus away from Robert Lewandowski’s recent feats, including a five-goal spree in just 11 second-half minutes for Bayern Munich against Wolfsburg.
“People point out that they have [Robert] Lewandowski and that’s true but they have not beaten us yet,” he said.
“We drew with them over there and I still believe we are as good as them as a group.”
On the return of-25 year-old McDonald, Strachan, who drafted the midfielder in for the clash with Germany in Dortmund 13 months ago, said: “I’ve seen him recently. He is getting better and better as he gets older although he is not an old man. I think he deserves to be here.”
Shinnie has also been added to the squad, although in his case for the first time, despite earlier calls for his inclusion.
“I have known about Graeme for a couple of years now,” said Strachan. “But again we have been strong in the areas he has been playing.”