Scotland told to take advantage of Republic of Ireland's situation in Dublin

Scotland manager Steve Clarke has urged his side to take advantage of a situation where today’s opponents Republic of Ireland are fighting for their Nations League lives.

Scotland's players train at Oriam ahead of Saturday's Nations League clash with Ireland.
Scotland's players train at Oriam ahead of Saturday's Nations League clash with Ireland.

Just two wins in 17 competitive matches has placed manager Stephen Kenny’s position under increasing scrutiny.

The pressure intensified after last weekend’s 1-0 defeat to Armenia in the Republic of Ireland’s opening Nations League game was followed by another loss in midweek to Ukraine in which the team failed to score.

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They are still looking for a first win in the Nations League after 12 attempts and have scored just two goals in the process.

Having suffered elimination from the World Cup finals equation after defeat against Ukraine ten days ago, Scotland can now effectively extinguish Republic of Ireland’s hopes of securing a Euro 2024 play-off place. An away win would all but knock the hosts out of the running to finish top of the group.

“I think if we go and play to our maximum capacity then we can put them under pressure,” said Clarke. “I don’t know but I’d imagine Stephen’s relationship with his players is pretty good and they’ll want to go out there and put on a good show and a good performance.

“Like I said before, they’ll want to try and get a foothold in the group so the September games are meaningful for them rather than being in a position where the group has already run away from them.

“I’d imagine that will be their thinking more than anything. How the fans will react, I don’t know.”

If the circumstances look promising for Scotland, they also seem ripe for a fall. Clarke has stressed that no one should be fooled by the Republic of Ireland’s recent results, nor the fact they currently sit bottom of Group B1.

“If you look at both games, and I have looked at both games, they lost them both by one goal,” said Clarke. “There was not a lot in the game. You could argue that they had chances in both games to take something out of the games.

“Previous to the two defeats they had a really good run of eight games unbeaten – eight games unbeaten is a really good run for anyone.

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“I keep talking us up because we can go on runs of eight or nine games. And that run of eight games included good opponents like Portugal and Belgium. They are a good team.”

Clarke did not report any fresh injuries following the midweek win over Armenia.

Goalkeeper Zander Clark and centre-half Liam Cooper have left the squad due to weddings. With David Marshall having announced his international retirement earlier this week with immediate effect, Rangers’ third choice ‘keeper Robby McCrorie has been called up as cover.

Lewis Ferguson’s recovery is continuing and the Aberdeen midfielder, who should be available for the away clash with Armenia on Wednesday.

Clarke did not anticipate making as many changes as was the case against Armenia, when six players came into the side following the loss to Ukraine.

“Again the focus is on the game in Ireland and trying to get the result there,” said Clarke.

“In the back of my mind I can have one or two possible changes or possible solutions for the two games. I need the players to concentrate on the game coming up.”