This is the Scotland team we would pick to face Czech Republic

There has been so much debate about how the Scotland football team will line up against Czech Republic at Hampden Park that Steve Clarke has stopped talking about it.

Scotland's team line up against Luxembourg last Sunday.

The manager was abrupt when asked if he had picked his side at his pre-match press conference but there is not long to wait to discover who will represent the Scotland men’s side in their first major finals outing for 23 years.

That does not mean to say the rest of the nation cannot have fun trying to predict what he will do or perhaps even try and come up with something better, however impertinent that seems. After all, Clarke has not done such a bad job so far.

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Still, it’s notable that many people within the game itself, from Craig Levein to Charlie Adam, are desperate for Billy Gilmour to start, for example. This clamour can’t just be put down to over-excitement on the part of fans.

Clarke had got it mostly right so far and will have relished working so closely with the players over the last couple of weeks. It has been a rare chance to feel like a coach at a club again as he prepares for a hectic schedule of three games against high-quality opposition in eight days.

This might influence his thinking. It certainly influences mine. It is imperative to get off to a good start.

Charged with selecting my team for this afternoon’s Group D opener v Czech Republic, I would play David Marshall rather than Craig Gordon in goal. There is very little to choose between the top two goalkeepers. Marshall has done very little wrong and has been mostly excellent under Clarke. While there seems to some growing support for Gordon to be given the gloves, I feel this would be cruel in the extreme after Marshall did so much to get Scotland to the finals.

Defence is a much thornier issue. It may well have caused Clarke some sleepless nights too. Except for one defensive lapse against the Netherlands, the back three of Jack Hendry, Liam Cooper (in the middle) and Kieran Tierney did well that night in Faro and so I would be tempted to play them – with skipper Andy Robertson, obviously, at left wingback, and the usually steady Stephen O’Donnell at right wingback. The option of playing 19-year-old Nathan Patterson there is tempting but starting two youngsters in the opening game might be slightly too audacious, which brings me to midfield...

Scotland might not get back to a major finals again for a long time so I am minded to play Gilmour while we have the opportunity to do so. He can dictate play and make things happen from his position as one of two deep-lying midfielders. I would put Scott McTominay beside him to form a seriously impressive sitting midfield pair and allow John McGinn, my other midfielder, a bit of leeway in terms of getting further forward.

The aim is to secure three points and put some serious pressure on the Czechs. That means scoring at least once.

Lyndon Dykes and Che Adams missed several chances against Luxembourg last Sunday, but they linked well as a pair. It might be bold and unlikely something Clarke himself will decide to do, but I would play them both.

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