Scotland’s hopes of securing a second-ever win in Lithuania on Friday are not helped by the synthetic pitch. But Hibs striker Deivydas Matulevicius believes the surface will hamper both sides.
Come kick-off, he and his teammates will be rather more accustomed to it than Scotland, who will train this week on an artificial pitch identified by Strachan and his coaches as resembling the one in Vilnius.
The Scots will have one night to test out the underfoot conditions at the stadium on Thursday before then seeking to emulate the class of 2006 in bringing three points back from Lithuania – the only previous time Scotland have done so.
In a testing challenge for Strachan’s side, they have been further disadvantaged by the pitch at the LFF stadium, where Scotland will play a competitive fixture on a synthetic surface for the first time.
Matulevicius, who signed for Hibs last month and is set to take part against Dundee today, is not overly thrilled by the prospect.
“It’s a shame for us too,” he said. “We don’t have a good stadium in Lithuania at this time.
“Nobody likes to play on this pitch, but we don’t have another choice. We don’t have a national stadium. It’s really hard for teams who come from good stadiums to play on this pitch. The football is really different. I think it’s more difficult for Scotland because we have a week to train on it before the game.”
He added: “It is very different from playing on grass. If they put water on, it is different, and if they don’t put water on it is different, so you never know. Some players play and train on this pitch every day, but for others coming in it is more difficult. Having a week to train on it is a plus for us.”
The well-travelled Matulevicius has won 33 caps for Lithuania and came on as substitute when Lithuania held Scotland at Hampden last year.
It was the first body blow for Scotland in their faltering bid to reach the World Cup finals in Russia the next month.
The 28 year-old says he was surprised by the apathy in the stadium that night – Scotland toiled and only equalised late on through James McArthur. It proved very different to what former Hearts midfielder Deividas Cesnauskis told them to expect.
“He’d been there before when the atmosphere had been incredible,” said Matulevicius.
“But this time? I don’t know, maybe the supporters weren’t very happy with the Scotland players.”
Another ex-Tynecastle player, Edgarus Jankauskas, is in charge of Lithuania. A former Champions League winner at Porto, he can count on instant respect from his charges.
“We have a young manager in Jankauskas, who everyone knows, and he is starting to build a team,” said Matulevicius. “We have some experienced players and a lot of young players and we are looking forward.
“The results in Scotland and Slovenia (where Lithuania also drew 1-1) were really good for us and we started to play some really nice football. So let’s see.
“Jankauskas is a big inspiration. He was a top player. He was with Jose Mourinho when Porto won the Champions League. Every time you meet with the national team he tells you something you can take away with you. You can take a lot of experience from him.”
Matulevicius added: “The coach is a winner. It doesn’t matter who you play, Scotland, England, even Brazil, he just wants to win the game, just go to the pitch and give everything.”
It’s a warning – not that Scotland should need one of course.