There is only one line-up Scotland manager Steve Clarke dare field in Austria

The Scotland bench was 12 strong on Saturday night against Moldova.

Scotland's Che Adams (left0 and Lyndon Dykes should be paired for the first time this international fortnight by Steve Clarke for the crucial World Cup qualifier in Austria.  (Photo by Alan Harvey / SNS Group)
Scotland's Che Adams (left0 and Lyndon Dykes should be paired for the first time this international fortnight by Steve Clarke for the crucial World Cup qualifier in Austria. (Photo by Alan Harvey / SNS Group)

It contained two club captains - Celtic’s Callum McGregor and Leeds United’s Liam Cooper - and three more players who enjoyed notable game time during the country’s Euro 2020 sortie in Che Adams, Stephen O’Donnell and Ryan Fraser.

The bench for the must-not-lose World Cup qualifier Steve Clarke’s men face in Austria is likely to be denuded of all, and only eight in number. Two of those goalkeepers. Yet, considering the battalion of players the Scotland manager has lost for the country’s Vienesse whirl….considering his scrabbling around for right-back cover once Nathan Patterson pulled out - the prodigious Rangers talent eventually replaced by Paul McGinn - then Clarke should be relieved it will only be his bench where squad issues are keenly felt.

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It is remarkable, really, that despite the call-off carousel with which his head must have been forced to spin these past couple of weeks Clarke’s starting XI need not be far short of what he would put out on the pitch with a full complement of players at his disposal. Context on that front is offered by the composition of the team that produced arguably the best display of his two-and-a-half year era - the scoreless draw against England in Euro 2020 in June. It is likely that nine of the outfield players in Vienna will remain from that evening, with only Manchester United’s Scott McTominay unavailable from the 10 men he deployed across the field at Wembley. Moreover, with Cooper likely to fill the back-three berth vacated by McTominay from that night three months ago, there is no sense that Scotland are going to be seriously weakened.

Clarke’s hand being forced will preclude any temptation to overthink his team. That is because he will surely select Craig Gordon in goal, Kieran Tierney, Grant Hanley and Cooper as his back three, Andy Robertson and O’Donnell in the left and right wing-back roles, Billy Gilmour and McGregor as his central midfield two, with John McGinn the link man between the pair and strike duo Lyndon Dykes and Adams.

There are certain elements of this team to encourage. McGregor and Gilmour excelled at Wembley, dovetailing and playing off one another in tight spaces as could not be the case with Kenny McLean the third man in the middle in the desperate first-half against the Danes last week. Whatever the ups and downs of the Dykes and Adams combination across the six months they have featured together for Scotland, the toils of Kevin Nisbet against Moldova on Saturday demonstrated that blending them is the best option for Clarke’s forward line. As he hasn’t previously for a starting line-up across this international fortnight. In addition, of course, this configuration ensures that the left-sided axis of Tierney and Robertson is safely in place. The Scotland manager, whatever good reason he had for the alteration, will no doubt curse that he split up this pairing in switching the Liverpool defender to wide right for the opening half of that accursed night in Copenhagen.

The best Scotland could have to offer might not be enough to see them prosper away to Austria. But if that proves to be the case, it won’t be because there was cavalry that was stricken.

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