Steve Clarke to pick from diminished squad as pool of 16 prepare for huge Denmark test

Scotland will take on Euro 2020 semi-finalists Denmark with a heavily diminished squad of just 16 outfield players and no recognised right back in tonight’s World Cup qualifying clash in Copenhagen.

Stephen O’Donnell and Kevin Nisbet did not travel with the squad that left Edinburgh yesterday. Manager Steve Clarke has been left with only 19 fit and available players, three of them goalkeepers, to face a team that reached the last four of Euro 2020 earlier this summer and are ranked at 11 in the world.

“We have got a little issue with Stephen O’Donnell getting access to Denmark, which is a little bit of a curveball, has caught us out a little bit,” the manager explained.

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“It is just the way it is with the Covid restrictions and the rules. Different countries have different rules. The medical staff and (Head of High Performance) Graeme Jones have been trying their best to find ways around it, loopholes and whatever. But we haven’t managed to solve that particular problem.”

Scotland prepare for tonight's match against Denmark.

O’Donnell will be available for Saturday’s home clash against Moldova while Nisbet is expected to recover from “a knock” picked up in training. Clarke is preparing to call-up another forward if Nisbet fails to respond to treatment. More pressingly, Scotland have been left with only two strikers – Che Adams and Lyndon Dykes – for tonight’s clash. They have four international goals between them.

The manager was keeping his sense of humour. “I think I have got cap number seven coming up!” Clarke quipped. The defender played six times for Scotland between 1987 and 1994.

There was some good news – the Scotland manager was greeted by the sight of a £6m centre-half in the shape of Jack Hendry last night when Scotland landed in Copenhagen.

The former Dundee and Celtic defender met up with the squad in Denmark after completing his big-money move from Oostende to Club Brugge.

Clarke was happy that Hendry’s future has been settled and the player can concentrate on tonight’s clash, with the defender standing a good chance of starting. The manager called for Uefa to separate the end of the European transfer window from the international window.

“It is in the background, but for someone like Jack, it was a positive, so he’s not going to be down about it,” he said. “He is going to be excited and delighted if a move comes off and he’ll come in a more positive frame of mind.

“But I think people scheduling the fixtures need to have a little think about when the transfer window deadline is and try to separate it a little from the internationals, especially on top of the Covid issues and then you get your normal injury issues. We’ve been hit by all three going into this camp.”

He still believes the squad, though reduced in size, is good enough to secure a result in Copenhagen. Clarke recalled the 0-0 draw with England at Wembley earlier this summer and called for more of that same spirit.

“Listen, we go there with good players, a good team and a realistic chance of getting a positive result,” he said. “That is what we want.

“There have been lots of distractions. But ultimately we will have a good team on the pitch and we will go there to be very competitive with a really good Danish team.”

The Danes have their own problems and will be missing several starting contenders, including Barcelona’s Martin Braithwaite and Nice’s Kasper Dolberg, who has scored 10 times in 30 internationals.

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