Five talking points ahead of Scotland v Malta

Scotland take on Malta in their World Cup qualifier at Hampden Park on Monday night in what is another crucial encounter.

Scotland players celebrate after scoring against Lithuani. Picture: AP Photo/Mindaugas Kulbis

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The Scots are required to win their remaining three games to given themselves the best chance of reaching the play-off stage.

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Here, we look at five talking points ahead of the Group F game.

Will Strachan keep the same team?

Strachan went with six Celtic players and a surprise inclusion of Matt Phillips for the Lithuania game on Friday night and it paid off with a convincing win.

Having impressed with a back three against England, Gordan Strachan has the players available to switch both system and personnel. However, it would be a surprise if he didn’t keep the same shape and same formation for the Maltese clash.

The Scotland boss stressed at his pre-match press conference that he had players who had played a lot and some who had had little game time this season, which suggests that he might make changes but every player will be eager to get on to the Hampden pitch regardless of how many minutes they have in their legs this season.

Will England beat Slovakia at Wembley?

It might be somewhat ironic that the Scots need England to beat Slovakia but it is essential that they do.

A victory for the Three Lions at Wembley would put the chances of a second place finish in Scotland’s own hands. While England have their own reasons for victory. Gareth Southgate’s side are only two points ahead of their hosts and will want to secure automatic qualification for Russia.

Slovakia are a good side and England struggled against Malta. A win or even draw for the away side would put a massive dent in the Scots’ hopes. One eye will be on Wembley.

Crowd size

Malta are not one of the great draws in international football, especially on a Monday evening, and the qualification campaign at times has been hard going for the Tartan Army.

Scotland, however, are generally one of the better supported countries and the enthusiasm from the win over Lithuania will encourage some who were ready to give the game a miss.

Tickets are still available and a late surge in sales could take the crowd up to around 25,000.

Can Hampden stay patient?

The Scots won 5-1 in Malta in their first qualifier so know what they are up against but the scenario at Hampden Park will be different. Patience on and off the park will be key and that was stressed by Strachan who noted how hard Malta were to break down before eventually losing 4-0 to England on Friday night.

Those Tartan Army members who do attend must not get too anxious in the absence of an early breakthrough. Having seemingly been down and out a few matches ago, the hope should mean that the crowd are raucously behind their team.

Where do Scotland stand?

Scotland’s 3-0 win in Lithuania on Friday night took them into third place behind England and Slovakia. A late Slovak goal against Slovenia gives them a four-point cushion over Gordon Strachan’s side, England two points further ahead.

It is perhaps too early to make predictions as to what Scotland need, point-wise, to finish as one of the best runners-up. However, one thing is clear, three wins from three is a must.

See off Malta with ease and the picture should become clearer by Tuesday night with every side having played eight matches in qualification.