Scotland v England: The key tactical battles for Euro 2020 clash - importance of James Forrest, Che Adams and Declan Gallagher

Once the disappointment of Monday’s 2-0 loss to Czech Republic had subsided, at least to the point of being able to look forward to the England game, much of the focus has centred on Steve Clarke’s starting XI.

We take a look at the key tactical battles and questions for Friday’s night's massive clash:

How Scotland can frustrate England

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It is highly likely Southgate will set his side out in a 4-3-3 formation with the aim of building from deep, retaining possession and controlling the direction and the tempo of the game.

Steve Clarke has some big decisions to make for the match v England. (Photo by LEE SMITH/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
Steve Clarke has some big decisions to make for the match v England. (Photo by LEE SMITH/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

It would perhaps be naive for Scotland to go out and attack England, leaving themselves open.

The best chance of success is to frustrate and counter. The likes of Mason Mount, Phil Foden and, if he features, Jack Grealish want to get the ball between the midfield and defensive lines, especially the half spaces between wing-backs and centre-backs.

Scotland need to play tight and compact.

A 3-4-2-1/5-2-2-1 will see Steve Clarke’s men swamp the middle of the pitch.

Allow Harry Maguire, who has declared himself fit, and John Stones to have the ball and funnel it centrally. When it comes into the midfield or beyond half-way that's the trigger to press. Scotland – and this can’t be emphasised enough – can't allow the ball to go goal side of the midfield.

Staying compact should also negate the influence Kalvin Phillips enjoyed v Croatia, giving him little room to explode into.

How Scotland can get at England

In Maguire and Stones, England have two defenders who often come with caveats. Their good qualities are often followed by a ‘but’.

Tyrone Mings had a solid game against Croatia but Maguire is a key member of the England defence, an area which can be regarded as their weakest.

Turning the centre-backs is massive, as is penetration down the flanks where Kyle Walker played at right-back and Kieran Trippier – a right-back – at left-back.

Flooding the midfield with John McGinn plus two of Stuart Armstrong, Ryan Fraser and Ryan Christie provide Scotland with a counter-attacking threat. These are players who are strong runners with and without the ball, and can do so beyond the striker but also past Declan Rice, England’s sitter in midfield.

A bombardment of Navy Blue Arrows should be too much for him to handle.

Down the flanks it is about players who can get up the pitch quickly.

With Tierney fit, the person on the right flank will have a big role, simply because they could be on for a switch of play where they could be presented with a 1v1 situation.


Clarke, familiar with underdog victories, should opt for James Forrest on the right. A competent defensive winger, his attacking output and ability to cover the flank are two positives as is his quality in one v one situations.

Che Adams has to start. He is more refined at linking play than Lyndon Dykes and will come towards the ball more effectively, opening up space in behind which to penetrate.

Declan Gallagher could be a wise choice at the back in what could be a back to the walls defensive performance at times.

The biggest thing for Clarke is striking that balance of getting behind the ball and frustrating England but not being too defensive. And also starting Adams.

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