|Euro 2020 qualifying: Scotland v Russia|
|Venue: Hampden Park, Glasgow Date: Friday, 6 September Kick-off: 19:45 BST|
Head coach Steve Clarke says Scotland are overdue “a big win” as they prepare to host Russia in Friday’s crucial Euro 2020 qualifier.
Scotland trail the second-place Russians by three points after four matches in Group I.
Clarke’s team face a pivotal three games in their qualification bid, with the visit of Belgium on Monday followed by a trip to Moscow on October 10.
“It’s been a long time since we turned over one of the big boys,” Clarke said.
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“Russia, having been in the last eight of the last World Cup, are one of the bigger teams. We need a big win as a country.”
Scotland’s last notable scalp came six years ago when, already out of the running for World Cup 2014 qualification, they stunned Croatia – then ranked number four in the world – 1-0 in Zagreb.
“It’s about time that we as a nation, rather than being on the receiving end, are dishing out a result that’s deemed an upset,” Clarke added. “Hopefully Friday night can be the case.”
Clarke acknowledged there has been an apathy around the national team – with the absence from a major tournament stretching back to 1998 – and believes victory over Russia can be a watershed moment.
“Over a number of years, we haven’t reached a major finals,” he said. “The more often that happens, the less people start to believe in it. So one big result could change the mindset, not just of the squad, but of the whole nation.”
Naismith training absence ‘no big drama’
Scotland can ill afford to lose further ground after a poor start to the group, losing heavily in Kazakhstan before an uninspiring win at San Marino, results which ultimately cost Alex McLeish his job as head coach.
Clarke, who began his Scotland tenure in June with a late 2-1 home win over Cyprus and 3-0 defeat away to the world’s top-ranked side, Belgium, says Friday night isn’t necessarily Scotland’s best hope of victory in the next three fixtures.
“If you’re pessimistic [it is],” he said. “If you’re optimistic, you think you can win any game. Rather than put the pressure on the one game, over the next three games we have to make sure we get enough points to make sure we’re still in the group.”
Veteran striker Steven Naismith missed Scotland’s final training session on Thursday, but it’s “not a big drama” according to Clarke.
The Hearts forward played only nine minutes for his club on Saturday – his first action in three weeks – after suffering a hamstring injury in the first game of the league season on his comeback from knee surgery.
“We felt it was better not to risk him,” Clarke said. “Hopefully tomorrow he is feeling better.”
‘Clarke has put belief back in squad’
Former Kilmarnock manager Clarke has “put belief back in the squad”, says Scotland skipper Andy Robertson.
And the Liverpool left-back insists the players now have to respond with a notable performance and victory over Russia.
“He has come in and got us all believing again and training and playing with a smile on our faces and getting us right for the games,” Robertson said.
“We have not had a big performance in a big game for a long time and we need to do that because that’s the only way you can qualify for these tournaments.”