Steve Clarke faces the most important game of his reign as Scotland boss in this Hampden Euro 2020 playoff. Betfair's Frankie Monkhouse expects an entertaining home win...
"Scotland really should have beaten Israel in the UEFA Nations League at Hampden last month but failed to take their chances"
Scotland aiming to end the drought
Less than two years after answering an SOS call from Hampden, Steve Clarke faces his biggest challenge as Scotland boss when leading his side into the European Championship playoffs. The dark blues meet Israel on Thursday evening looking to gain the win needed to move a step closer to a place in next summer's tournament.
Hampden Park in Glasgow will be without the famous Tartan Army on Thursday evening but that could help ease the pressure on the locals as they push for a place in the playoff final. Scotland have been absent from major international competition since France 1998. Is that drought about to end?
Clarke has picked a strong squad
Scotland have played Israel three times in the past and the head-to-head stats show an even split with the home team claiming victory back in 2018, their opponents bagging a win and the most recent clash ending in a draw. The latter was played at Hampden last month in the UEFA Nations League when a Ryan Christie penalty was matched by an equaliser from Eran Zahavi midway through the second-half. Many Scotland fans viewed that result as two points dropped and will be eager to see improvement from their team in this renewal.
Clarke and his players have spoken in the build up to this match of their desire to make history and the manager has named a strong team. The squad boasts talented players including Kieran Tierney, Andy Robertson, Ryan Christie, John Fleck and Oli McBurnie. The selection looks strong on the team sheet, but will the players have what it takes to work together and see off Israel?
Double blow for Israel
Hoping to wreck the party is an Israel side who believe they have what it takes to play a part in Euro 2020 that has been postponed until next year. The Blue and Whites arrive in Glasgow without a win in their last four starts and with just one victory in their six most recent outings. The spare on that list came in the form of a 3-1 home win over Latvia last year but since then Israel have lost to Poland and North Macedonia before fighting out a pair of 1-1 draws with Scotland and Slovakia.
There was further bad news for manager Willibald Ruttensteiner when learning he will be without two first team regulars for this trip. Defender Taleb Tawatha and midfielder Dor Peretz both started against Scotland in the Nations League but won't travel with the team for this one after returning positive Covid-19 tests. That could prove to be a major blow for the visitors who know they are already up against it.
Goals expected in tight match
The pre-match betting available on the Betfair Sportsbook has Scotland as even money favourites to win this game inside 90 minutes and book their place in the final. That's sure to be popular but members looking for a bigger price may want to try their luck on the away win at 3/1. Fancy another draw? These sides fighting out a level finish and moving this game into extra-time is 23/10.
There's plenty to bet on in this match away from picking a winner. The stats associated with the game show both teams have found the net at least once in each of the previous three meetings. Will this renewal fall into line? Yes in the both teams to score market is 9/10 on the Betfair Sportsbook with no trading at 20/23. Over 2.5 goals in the game is 5/4 with under 8/13.
Scotland to take advantage
Scotland really should have beaten Israel in the UEFA Nations League at Hampden last month but failed to take their chances and put the game to bed when leading. The late equaliser was a sucker punch for Scotland, but we should see improvement here.
They are the home team up against an under-strength opponent and the players feel they have a point to prove. There may be no supporters inside the famous stadium but everyone in the home dressing room will know exactly what's at stake here and what is expected of them. Back a Scotland win and both teams to score at 7/2 (Betfair Sportsbook).