No dud Czechs: Scotland boss warns over rivals’ shadow side

Clarke expects tough clash with Covid-hit hosts

Stuart Armstrong, left, and Jon McLaughlin pictured as Scotland depart fortheir Nations League qualifier against Czech Republic

Steve Clarke has challenged the perception that Scotland’s task in tonight’s Nations League clash with Czech Republic is more straightforward because the hosts are being forced to field a shadow side.

The Scotland manager stressed his players’ focus has not changed since learning their Group B2 rivals have assembled a makeshift squad after the original squad was quarantined due to Covid-19 concerns.

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“The squad that they’ve picked, we are working through just now,” said Clarke. “We are looking at it and trying to catch various clips of them playing for their country and their clubs. They all play in 
the Czech Republic top 
division.

“I think if the situation was reversed and we had to put out a Scottish team that involved players who are not here just now we would put a team out on the pitch and expect them to be very competitive. It will still be a tough game.”

Asked if he must accept the assignment is easier than if circumstances were different and Czech Republic were able to field the side that inflicted a 3-1 defeat on Slovakia in Bratislava on Friday, Clarke said: “It is very difficult to sit here and say that. I am only concentrating on what we can do. We can’t afford to let that kind of mentality come into the camp. It is not a question that I need to go into. I am more worried about our performance, how we play and whether we can get the result.”

Clarke was adamant that it is sensible to fulfil the fixture despite a rise in Covid-19 cases in Czech Republic and unease from clubs with players in the Scotland squad. SFA chief executive Ian Maxwell revealed on Saturday that clubs had been in touch with him as concerns about the 
trip intensified after Czech Republic attempted to call off the fixture.

“We have had one or two phone calls from club chief execs just asking for the latest update and asking what the current situation is,” Maxwell said in an interview with BBC Radio Scotland’s Sportsound.

Clarke said no-one had been in touch with him expressing such concerns. “Whether they have been contacting Ian and the association is a better question for Ian,” he said. “Nobody has contacted me.”

He is at ease with international football resuming amid such Covid-19-related complications. “I think football had to come back,” he said. “Industry had to come back. We are part of industry. We are part of the world. We cannot make everyone sit in the house forever. There comes a time when you have to start lifting restrictions and allow people to get back 
to normal life. We are just a part of that.”

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