Scotland boss Steve Clarke: ‘No dead games when you play for national team

Scotland manager Steve Clarke insists there is still plenty to play for. Picture: Paul Devlin/SNS
Scotland manager Steve Clarke insists there is still plenty to play for. Picture: Paul Devlin/SNS
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Steve Clarke will hand Aberdeen defender Mikey Devlin
his international debut while keeping striker Lawrence Shankland in reserve after insisting his side have everything to play for against 
Russia in Moscow tonight.

The Scotland manager knows many are claiming the Group I fixture is meaningless as four defeats in their opening six qualifiers have left the Scots trailing second-placed Russia by nine points in the bid to qualify automatically for Euro 2020.

Oli Burke will lead the line with the on-loan Alaves player earning his ninth cap. Shankland, whose call up from Championship side Dundee United sparked so much debate, will be on the bench.

If tonight’s clash between Kazakhstan and Cyprus ends in a draw, the Russians can secure qualification with a win over Scotland at the Luzhniki Stadium. As of yesterday, the Russian Football Union had sold over 60,000 tickets. There will be around 1,000 Scots in the stadium.

Their chances of seeing a surprise victory were hit by the news Kenny McLean pulled out with an injury shortly before the squad travelled to Russia yesterday afternoon. The Norwich City midfielder is the latest potential starter to withdraw through injury after Ryan Jack, Grant Hanley, Liam Cooper and Oli McBurnie.

Devlin is set to start alongside Charlie Mulgrew in the centre of defence. He has been picked ahead of Kilmarnock’s Stuart Findlay and Motherwell’s Declan Gallagher, both of whom were late call ups.

“People say it is a dead rubber,” said Clarke. “I disagree entirely. There’s never a dead game when you are representing your country.

“You want to win, you want to perform well. I think we are taking at least 1,000 people over there. It is really important. Those guys have shelled out an obscene amount of money to get to Moscow.

“So that is an objective: to perform well and play well and try to give them something to smile about and cheer about on the way home.”

Clarke also emphasised the need to finish in third place after being third seeds in the group. Scotland are currently
fifth – behind even Kazakhstan and Cyprus. He said: “That is the minimum position we should finish in.

“We have to put ourselves under pressure to finish third.”