It’s judgement day for Craig Levein, Scotland and the Tartan Army. Scotland are a mere 90 minutes away from potentially securing a play-off place in their chase for qualification for the European Championships in Poland and Ukraine 2012. The only thing standing in their way is World and European champions Spain.
With the Scotland medical team working hard to get Scotland’s top performers in tip-top shape ahead of Tuesday night’s clash, manager Craig Levein has held off naming his starting eleven as he awaits news on the injury to Kenny Miller and the fitness of Craig Mackail-Smith, Barry Bannan and Darren Fletcher.
Miller would have been a shoe-in for the lone striker role against the Spaniards, but after missing out on Saturday’s 1-0 win over Liechtenstein through injury, the Cardiff City striker is facing a race against time to recover from a groin injury in what is arguably one of Scotland’s biggest games in recent years.
Scotland currently sit one point ahead of rivals for second spot, the Czech Republic, who face Lithuania on the same night. Scotland need to at least match the result achieved by the Czechs or they will miss out on another major competition.
Levein told BBC Radio Scotland: “It is a tall order, but it is a one-off match. You saw the first time around at Hampden that we are capable of scoring goals and the boys have won six of their last nine matches, so we’re going into this game in good spirits.
“We’ve put ourselves in a position where we are second place heading into the last game. Things worked out well for us and it is now about recovering for the game on Tuesday. We’ve got to go and try to win.”
Spain are expected to field a weakened side after already qualifying for the competition at a canter. However Spain coach Vicente del Bosque has quality fringe players to call on, such as Liverpool’s Jose Reina and Barcelona’s Victor Valdes who are likely to replace Real Madrid keeper Iker Casillas in goals for Spain.
Real Madrid midfielder Alonso is doubtful after being forced off injured after being forced off through injury against the Czechs on Friday after a horrendous tackle from Tomas Hubschman, which earned the Czech a red card.
Sergio Ramos was also withdrawn at half time against the Czech Republic and despite returning to training, Valencia left back Jordi Alba is reportedly set to make his debut.
Albiol was ruled out of Tuesday’s clash with Scotland after breaking a cheekbone in training on Sunday and reports in Spain have Carlos Puyol and Javi Martinez as Spain’s central defensive partnership.
Under-fire Chelsea striker Fernando Torres looks set to start-up front for Spain, after being backed by del Bosque.
Spain’s head coach said: “I saw Fernando in good form with a lot of energy and enthusiasm. Unfortunately we didn’t find the right pass for him against the Czechs, but I am happy with his performance.”
Torres has not scored for Spain in close to a year, but despite this he has the full backing of his coach.
“He did what I asked him,” said del Bosque. “Fernando made them defend deep and opened up space.”
On his potential line-up against Scotland, del Bosque intimated: “We have lots of players with quality and plenty of alternatives,” Del Bosque said. “Our players have been playing a lot of games and it is normal some have suffered tiredness. That is why rotating the team against Scotland is an option.”
Craig Levein Press Conference previewing the Spain game:
Darren Fletcher gives his thoughts on the final EURO 2012 game tomorrow:
Goalkeepers: David Marshall (Cardiff City), Allan McGregor (Rangers), Cammy Bell (Kilmarnock)
Defenders: Stephen McManus (Middlesbrough), Steven Whittaker (Rangers), Alan Hutton (Aston Villa), Phil Bardsley (Sunderland), Grant Hanley (Blackburn Rovers), Lee Wallace (Rangers), Christophe Berra (Wolverhampton Wanderers), Gary Caldwell (Wigan Athletic)
Midfielders: Charlie Adam (Liverpool), Barry Bannan (Aston Villa), Don Cowie (Cardiff City), Graham Dorrans (West Bromwich Albion), Darren Fletcher (Manchester United), James Forrest (Celtic), James Morrison (West Bromwich Albion), Steven Naismith (Rangers), Barry Robson (Middlesbrough), James McArthur (Wigan Athletic), Danny Swanson (Dundee United)
Forwards: David Goodwillie (Blackburn Rovers), Craig Mackail-Smith (Brighton and Hove Albion), Kenny Miller (Cardiff City)
Goalkeepers: Iker Casillas (Real Madrid), Victor Valdes (Barcelona), Pepe Reina (Liverpool)
Defenders: Alvaro Arbeloa (Real Madrid), Sergio Ramos (Real Madrid), Gerard Pique (Barcelona), Carles Puyol (Barcelona), Jordi Alba (Valencia)
Midfielders: Xabi Alonso (Real Madrid), Sergio Busquets (Barcelona), Santi Cazorla (Malaga), Thiago Alcantara (Barcelona), Xavi (Barcelona), Javi Martinez (Athletic Bilbao), David Silva (Manchester City)
Forwards: David Villa (Barcelona), Pedro (Barcelona), Fernando Torres (Chelsea), Fernando Llorente (Athletic Bilbao), Juan Mata (Chelsea)