Adams to start? McTominay conundrum? Gordon or Marshall? Scotsman writers have their say on Scotland XI v Austria

Stick with the players who qualified for the Euros or mix things up with a few fresh faces?

Scotland head coach Steve Clarke during a Scotland training session at Oriam ahead of the World Cup qualifier against Austria. Pic: SNS

That is the dilemma facing Scotland manager Steve Clarke ahead of the opening World Cup 2022 qualifier against Austria at Hampden tonight.

Aside from Rangers midfielder Ryan Jack, the national boss has the option of selecting virtually the same XI who started the Euro play-off win over Serbia in November.

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But with recalls for the likes of Grant Hanley and Jack Hendry, the return of Ryan Fraser from injury and first call-ups for Che Adams and Kevin Nisbet, there are decisions to be made.

Could new arrival Che Adams partner Lyndon Dykes in the Scotland attack? (Photo by Ross MacDonald / SNS Group)

Does penalty shoot-out hero David Marshall start in goals despite losing his place at Derby due to a recent back injury, and does Scott McTominay move from defence to his preferred midfield position, where he has excelled for Man Utd?

The Scotsman football writers have their say …

Alan Pattullo: Five months is a long time in a football sense since Scotland reached Euro 2020. This isn’t the team you would have picked last November but it might be the team Steve Clarke picks now as Scotland prepare to kick off another qualifying campaign against Austria. Scott McTominay moves into midfield to create a space at right centre-back. Hendry is a more like-for-like replacement for the rangy Manchester United midfielder than, for example, Grant Hanley. Scott McKenna did not feature in Belgrade but did come into the side for the next two games. He moves into the centre of defence at the expense of Declan Gallagher. Out goes the out of form Ryan Christie with Che Adams coming in for his debut and given the task of playing off Dykes – or maybe the other way around.

Scotland XI: Marshall; Hendry, McKenna, Tierney; O’Donnell, McTominay, McGregor, McGinn, Robertson; Adams; Dykes.

Scott McTominay has been excelling in midfield for Man Utd - but will Scotland keep him in defence? (Photo by Ross MacDonald / SNS Group)

Andrew Smith: The 12.5% chance Scotland have been given of reaching a World Cup finals for the first time by a results simulation service might seem miserly, but in truth it isn’t overly so. First opponents Austria, also going to the Euros, are 25 places above Steve Clarke’s men for good reason. Likewise with group favourites Denmark, 12th to Scotland’s 48th. With the inclusion of Che Adams and the burgeoning reputation of Scott McTominay, the hope on which to cling for dear life is that Scotland are on an upward trajectory. To ensure that proves the case, Clarke must pick players in form for the Austria game. That means throwing in Adams straight away and retaining Lyndon Dykes just off him. It further means moving McTominay from his back three role of recent Scotland outings and utilising him in midfield, where he has excelled for Manchester United this season. To ensure that Scotland have height and muscle right throughout their spine, Grant Hanley - a stalwart for a Norwich City that have been ripping it up in the English Championship - should be berthed in the back three. The upshot of those selections is Clarke deploying a 3-4-1-1-1 formation, if you are being anoraky.

Scotland XI: Marshall; Hanley, McKenna, Tierney; O’Donnell, McTominay, McGregor, Robertson; McGinn; Dykes; Adams.

Stephen Halliday: As he starts his quest to lead Scotland to the 2022 World Cup Finals, it would be a surprise if Steve Clarke strays too far from the formation and personnel he has favoured over the past six months and which helped secure a place at this summer’s rescheduled Euro 2020 finals. But there are some big calls for Clarke to make for the Group F opener against Austria at Hampden which could set the tone for the campaign ahead. Craig Gordon should be preferred in goal to David Marshall, given the Serbia shoot-out hero has been unable to reclaim his first team place at Derby since picking up an injury last month. Despite excelling in midfield for Manchester United recently, Scott McTominay can continue to bring balance in the back three of the system which allows Clarke to accommodate both Kieran Tierney and Andrew Robertson. The dearth of goals in recent fixtures should see Che Adams make his debut up front.

Scotland XI: Gordon; McTominay, McKenna, Tierney; Palmer, McLean, McGregor, Robertson; McGinn; Dykes, Adams.

Scotland players are put through their paces at the Oriam ahead of the opening World Cup 2022 qualifier against Austria. (Photo by Craig Williamson / SNS Group)

Barry Anderson: There will be clamour to throw Ché Adams in from the start after his call-up but I think keeping him on the bench with Ryan Fraser gives Scotland two brilliant options for the second half. It also shows loyalty to Lydon Dykes and Ryan Christie for their part in getting Scotland through to the Euros. Most important for me is playing Scott McTominay in a midfield role which best utilises his engine and goal threat. For that reason I'd have Callum McGregor sitting in the middle of the central midfield three and let McTominay and John McGinn go forward when possible. In defence, Declan Gallagher has done nothing wrong and is used to playing on the right side of a back three. Jack Hendry might be a more controversial call over Scott McKenna but he has been playing in the middle of a back three in Belgium with Oostende for most of the season.

Scotland XI: Marshall; Gallagher, Hendry, Tierney; O’Donnell, McTominay, McGregor, McGinn, Robertson; Christie; Dykes.

Patrick McPartlin: Consistency is the key for me. Austria are a very good team but a positive result is certainly not beyond Scotland, and I'd be minded to keep the same formation and personnel that defeated Serbia on penalties as much as possible. With Ryan Jack out I think we may see Scott McTominay pushed into midfield given his displays for Manchester United and the defence shaken up. Grant Hanley has been captaining a Norwich City side flying in the Championship and I'd be tempted to bring him in alongside Scott McKenna and Kieran Tierney in the back three. Midfield picks itself assuming everyone is fit - Stuart Armstrong is a lovely player but the balance of the team is far better with Callum McGregor in there. I think we could also see Che Adams brought in from the start to partner Lyndon Dykes given Ryan Christie has been out of sorts for Celtic.

Scotland XI: Marshall; Hanley, McKenna, Tierney; O'Donnell, McTominay, McGregor, McGinn, Robertson; Dykes, Adams.

Moira Gordon: Although, the upcoming three games will present a major challenge to Scotland, they are all winnable matches and Steve Clarke’s men must approach them that way. To do that they will need to show improvement in the final third, having scored just six goals in eight outings and there is no doubt that the Scotland manager brought in Che Adams and Kevin Nisbet to bolster his scoring options. Lyndon Dykes' goal return since his first cap is unlikely to be ignored, though. It is also a case of deciding if Ryan Christie or Ryan Fraser should play up in support. Clarke likes to go with the 3-4-1-2 formation, which allows him to fit both Kieran Tierney and Andy Roberston neatly into the side, while Declan Gallagher has been impressive since breaking into the team and Jack Hendry’s right-foot and aerial threat at set pieces has been noted. The midfield offers several possibilities but in the absence of Ryan Jack, Scott McTominay is expected to move back into the heart of it.

Scotland XI: Marshall; Hendry, Gallagher, Tierney; O’Donnell, McGinn, McTominay, Robertson; Christie; Adam, Dykes

David Oliver: I’m excited by Che Adams' call-up and think he will be a Scotland success - but not yet. Steve Clarke has shown a great degree of loyalty in his past selections and expect him to show that in the team to face Austria. The following two games give a chance to bring more of the fringe squad in - anything to add variety to another meeting with an Israel team who already know the squad in forensic detail should be welcomed. Ryan Jack is a miss but rather than upset the backline by moving Scott McTominay, John Fleck's also been on form and could release Callum McGregor to link play higher up - something he’s good at but hasn’t done enough of with Celtic this season. Anything less than five points over the next week will be a disappointment, seven (or more!) and second-place is the least we can expect in the group, so much rests on a good start against Austria, and we can get it with Adams off the bench in a 2-1 win.

Scotland XI: Marshall, Robertson, Tierney, Gallagher, McTominay, O'Donnell, Fleck, McGregor, McGinn, Christie, Dykes.

Matthew Elder: Steve Clarke has worked wonders to get Scotland to a major finals for the first time in 23 years, but to progress further as a nation we need to be picking our best players in their best positions. Square pegs in round holes will only get you so far, and while Scott McTominay played his part in the Euro 2020 qualifying campaign, he is not the long-term solution in a back three, particularly given his performances in midfield for Man Utd. The injury to Ryan Jack provides the perfect excuse to move him into the role he excels in, and where he can become a Scotland talisman. People may question the inclusion of Stephen O'Donnell and Declan Gallagher due to the form of Motherwell but they have impressed in dark blue and deserve to keep the jerseys. The dearth of goals, three in the last six, needs addressed so having called up Che Adams for the first time, the in-form Southampton striker must start, but alongside Lyndon Dykes, not in place of.

Scotland XI: Marshall; Gallagher, Hanley, Tierney; O'Donnell, McGinn, McTominay, McGregor, Robertson; Adams, Dykes.

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