Russia have now won five consecutive qualifying matches and have been devastating in attack in the process. They’ve smashed in 18 goals in six matches, granted nine of those were against San Marino. If results were to go in their favour elsewhere they could actually secure qualification with three games to spare if they can topple the Tartan Army.
Russia have also been excepetional on their own turf. They’ve won four and drawn one of their last five competitive matches since the 2018 World Cup, they’ve kept a clean sheet in every single game and with Scotland’s notorious away problems I can only really see this one going one way.
Scotland have to win this game, failure to do so would make it mathematically impossible for them to achieve a second place finish. As unlikely as that looks anyway, all hope dies with a defeat in Moscow. It’ll be a tough ask, Russia were dominant in Glasgow and unlucky to only win the game by a single goal. Scotland lack creativity and are still searching for an out and out goal scorer, everyone has their own opinion on who should be the Scots number nine; however nobody seems to be able to step up.
Russia have been unstoppable so far, their record really does speak for itself. It’s a grim time for Scottish football, the problems persist and the results continue to suffer. They still don’t look like they have any grasp on what their best 11 is or how they want to play. Often it ends up with long hopeful balls forward and crosses from wide areas, something that this physical Russian side will absolutely thrive upon.
I look through the Scotland team and I just can’t see where their goals are going to come from. James Forrest is the only player who has had any kind of consistency for the national team as the majority of players fail to replicate their club form. This is particularly true for some of Scotland’s so called ‘better’ players, such as Andy Robertson and Ryan Fraser. Both have been consistently superb in the Premier League but their ability hasn’t been unlocked for their country.
There’s a few eye catching players on show for the hosts. Artem Dzyuba was a handful at Hampden, the giant striker is deceptively good with his feet and has found the net in each of Russia’s last seven qualifiers. He’s the focal point of all Russia’s forays in to forward areas but the difference these days is they have really got the hang of getting him the service.
AS Monaco’s Aleksander Golovin is the creative linchpin in midfield, he’s quick, agile and has incredible technique. He’s as equally adept at scoring goals as he is at making them; if Scotland stand any chance they simply have to shut him down.
Lawrence Shankland and Declan Gallagher are the surprise inclusions in this Scotland squad. Their participation in Russia however may be unlikely, it’s not quite the game to be throwing these players in. That being said, Shankland has been on fire for Dundee United and has already spoke of his desire to prove the doubters wrong. Oli McBurnie is unavailable which does open the door for Shankland to start, but in a must win game it could be a huge gamble despite his haul of 15 goals in 13 games.
Scotland will likely operate with a 4-2-3-1 system which will group together has a 4-5-1 when required which I imagine could be for very long periods of the game. If Scotland want something from this game they need to be resilient and hold out for as long as possible in the hope of springing a counter attack. If Russia score early I’d go as far to say as that is game over for the visitors.