Lithuania v Scotland – 1 September, 2017 – LFF Stadium, Vilnius – 19:45 hrs – WC 2018 Qualifier preview – Group F clash
The sudden pulling out of midfielder Tom Cairney and striker Steven Fletcher from the Scotland squad poses manager Gordon Strachan with the problem of coming up with 2 new players for the crucial weekend WC 2018 qualifying match Lithuania v Scotland. Striker Fletcher had to be substituted with 16 minutes of play remaining in Sheffield Wednesday's Saturday's clash against Burton.
Cairney although playing the full 90 minutes in Fulham's 2-0 win over Ipswich was later seen struggling with a knee injury. The focus could now be on 22-year old Nottingham Forrest striker Barrie Mackay who has had a very impressive start this season but given the pass by Strachan.
Two other shocking omissions in the squad in the form of Celtic’s Callum McGregor and Aberdeen left back Graeme Shinnie could now come under consideration.
For Strachan, nothing less the six points will do. Strachan's men will carry the discomforting memory of a 1-1 draw at Hampden Park against Lithuania earlier this year which will make things that much harder at Vilnius on September 1. They will have to produce the kind of form they showed in the 2-2 draw against England in June. But then, they have to thank two late miracle goals from free-kicks by Leigh Griffiths for that. To expect an encore at Vilnius from him would be far-fetched.
Watch Highlights of Scotland's previous match against Lithuania ending in a 1-1 Draw
For the Scots, Celtic's Scott Brown is expected to play a key role in the midfield. Andy Robertson and Kieran Tierney could be the mainstays at the back while Robert Snodgrass, Steven Naismith, Griffiths and Stuart Armstrong will have to carry the onus of attacking and getting goals.
Millwall goalkeeper Jordan Archer is all set to make his debut for Scotland at Vilnius with David Marshall out injured.
For Lithuania Hibernian duo Deivydas Matulevicius and Vykintas Slivka are both in. While Deivydas could find himself in a striker's role on Friday, he could be supported on the wings by Slivka and Arvydas Novikovas.
Slivka truly impressed for the Hibernians in a recent 3-2 win over Rangers where he got a stunning goal. Lithuania will need more of such feats at Vilnius on Friday if they are to keep their hopes alive for a trip to Russia in 2018.
The Scots have lost their previous two away games 0-3 to Slovakia and England and the one at Vilnius will be indeed a acid test of survival for them. UK Bookmakers favor the visitors to prevail, though. A grim contest could be on the cards at the LFF Stadium, Vilnius on the evening of September 1.