The Scotland manager has been deliberating over how to approach tonight’s final Group F match against Denmark with as many as seven of his players, including skipper Andy Robertson, at risk of being banned for the play-off semi-final in March if they pick up another yellow card.
Another, Scott McTominay, has been ruled out of contention in any case after also missing Friday’s 2-0 win over Moldova. The Manchester United midfielder has not recovered from a throat virus and has been replaced in the squad by Hibs defender Ryan Porteous.
Lyndon Dykes, who was suspended for the game in Chisinau, was expected to return but has been rated "50-50" by Clarke. The Queens Park Rangers forward is struggling with an ankle injury picked up after a challenge from international teammate Scott McKenna in a Championship clash against Nottingham Forest last month.
Clarke appears to have concluded that he can’t allow the bookings issue to dictate his team selection when there is still so much at stake.
Scotland will likely need to take at least a point from the unbeaten Danes to be seeded in the semi-final play-off draws and guarantee a home match.
The manager is still hopeful that rules can be changed to ensure all bookings are wiped before the play-offs. He accepts that this would mean the two governing bodies, Uefa and Fifa, acting quickly to move the matter to the top of the agenda as well as officials from the 12 countries involved arranging a meeting to discuss their options.
The play-off draw for the European nations takes place in Zurich on Friday, November 26.
“If all the teams that are involved in the play-offs could have a little head to head and decide .. but they would have to do it very quickly,” said Clarke.
“Decisions at its level are very rarely made quickly. It would have to be done before the draw. That doesn’t leave them much time. At this level, trying to get everybody to sit down and come to some kind of a resolution doesn’t often happen in such a short space of time.
“If it happened it would be good for all the countries involved. It’s something which could possibly be addressed but that’s more a conversation for the guys above me and obviously UEFA and FIFA would have to come together and find a solution.
“It’s a UEFA qualifying process within a FIFA competition so FIFA set the rules. We’ll just deal with it. The boys know.
“They’ve all played top level football. You know you run a risk if you go into a Champions League game (on a booking) and if you get a card you miss the next game. You have to learn how to play a game with a yellow card hanging over your head. Someone told me that Sweden have something like 16. So we’re not the worst.
“I’ve got a list of most of the countries and they are all up there … seven, eight, nine bookings. It’s just the way it is. If you get a reasonably sensible referee … everybody understands it.”
Spanish referee Alejandro Hernandez has been appointed for tonight’s game.
He has shown 18 yellow cards in his last two La Liga games, although only two in his last international – England v Hungary last month.