Callum McGregor calls for calm heads in Krakow as Scotland reel from injury setbacks

Callum McGregor has called for calm heads in Krakow after Scotland's preparations for Tuesday's crucial Nations League clash with Ukraine suffered a double injury setback.

Arsenal full-back Kieran Tierney and Nottingham Forest defender Scott McKenna have both dropped out along with Manchester United midfielder Scott McTominay, who is suspended after picking up a second booking of the campaign in the 2-0 win over Republic of Ireland at Hampden on Saturday.

Tierney was forced off during the first-half of that match with a head-knock which has now ruled him out of the trip to Poland, the temporary home of the war-afflicted Ukrainian side, while McKenna has withdrawn with a knee strain.

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Head coach Steve Clarke has responded to the call-offs by handing late call-ups to Hearts duo Stephen Kingsley and Barrie McKay – two key figures in the Tynecastle club’s third place finish last season.

Both have one senior cap each which came in the same match when they appeared as substitutes in a 3-0 friendly defeat to France in Metz in June 2016. Back then, McKay was at Rangers and Kingsley at Swansea.

With four starters from the 3-0 win over Ukraine at Hampden last Wednesday now absent – Nathan Patterson being the fourth – Clarke faces a selection dilemma for a match Scotland must claim at least a point from in order to secure top spot in Nations League Group B1 and a guaranteed play-off to qualify for Euro 2024.

A positive result would also earn Scotland promotion to Group A and, with it, a step up from Pot 3 to Pot 2 for the Euro 2024 qualifying group draw, which will be made on Sunday, October 9 in Frankfurt. Lose and Ukraine will pip them as group winners.

It places the fixture among the most significant Scotland have played under Clarke's tenure, and midfielder McGregor insists the team cannot lose focus now ahead of the all-important decider as they face a third match in six days.

Callum McGregor will be a key figure for Scotland in the Nations League decider against Ukraine on Tuesday. (Photo by Craig Williamson / SNS Group)

“We have to go to Poland and continue with the intent we have had in the last two games," said the Celtic captain.

"We have to be aggressive and keep calm heads on Tuesday night and use all the experience we have.

“There are a lot of experienced boys in the squad and we have to galvanise the group.

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“We know what we need to do to win the group and we will be going there to win the game.

“We need to be aggressive and do all the good things we have done so far in this camp.

“It’s about making sure we go in there with a positive mindset.”

Scotland will miss out on the World Cup in Qatar this winter after their summer play-off defeat to Ukraine and, having bounced back and got the wins they needed to put themselves in a position to win the group, McGregor is keen not to let this opportunity pass by.

“There have been a lot of undertones from the week in June,” he said. “Because of what happened in the summer we wanted to settle a few scores. There is an element of that as well but we have to try and take the emotion out of the game and out of the situation as well.

‘We understand we have got ourselves in a brilliant position now to top the group. Now it’s just about going to try and finish that job.

‘We will try and take the emotion away from it, do everything right and try and top the group.”

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