Roberto Martinez: Forget Hampden stroll, we expect tough test

Roberto Martinez will take nothing from Belgium’s hammering of Scotland last year as he prepares for their Euro 2020 clash in Brussels tonight. The Red Devils cruised to a 4-0 win in their friendly at Hampden Park last September.
Belgium head coach Roberto Martinez.Belgium head coach Roberto Martinez.
Belgium head coach Roberto Martinez.

Steve Clarke took over from Alex McLeish after a faltering start to the Euro 2020 qualifying campaign in which the Scots lost 3-0 away to Kazakhstan in their Group I opener in Astana, and his tenure began with a 2-1 win over Cyprus on Saturday.

Belgium’s 3-0 win over Kazakhstan at the weekend took them three points clear at the top of the table with three wins out of three but former Motherwell boss Martinez, whose wife Beth is a Scot, expects a tough test this time against Scotland.

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He said: “We played a friendly and we need to remember that. When we played Scotland at Hampden, it was a test. They were trying things, they took risks, it was a very open game and it played into our hands. They are not going to be trying things. It is going to be a competitive game against a team in a good moment of confiden ce. They will build on what they did against Cyprus.

“When you score a goal in the last minute and get the first victory with a new coach – Steve Clarke is an experienced manager and they were very impressive.

“So quickly everyone knows what they have to do, they have a clear direction, they are going to be well drilled, well positioned defensively and then they have huge pace in the wide areas in the one-versus-one situation.

“This is a young, but very talented Scotland team, so we are going to see a really good game. This Scotland team is going to get stronger and better.”

Martinez is a fan of former West Brom boss Clarke and revealed that he had already caused him problems. The former Wigan and Everton manager said: “He’s a gentleman of the game. He’s got a lot of experience at big clubs.

“I faced him as an assistant of Kenny Dalglish, Gianfranco Zola at West Ham and Mourinho at Chelsea. He’s had a real mixture of styles and big personalities.

“He’s found his own way of working and has been very successful. “I did suffer from his coaching at West Brom –we drew in my first game at Everton and I’ve always been a big admirer in the way he affects the players to do what they have to do for the team.

“His know-how, getting into a clear strategy – is what I’ve seen with Scotland.

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“It’s going to be a competitive, well-structured team and we’re going to see it grow. I’m sure of that.”

However, Martinez admits he ultimately may have to upset the Scottish side of the family.

He said: “We put a ban on speaking about football – I hope everyone is very upset when I come back home.”