Scotland host Cyprus as the UEFA Euro 2024 qualifiers kick off at Hampden with Celtic skipper Callum McGregor set for a milestone afternoon. Manager Steve Clarke signed a new deal that will take him to 2026 and he will likely hand a 50th cap to McGregor. It is a game that Scotland should be winning given their record against the visitors. The teams have met seven times in the past with the Scots winning all seven of the encounters.
There are two Celts in the squad, Tony Ralston was a late addition joining up with McGregor. Whilst McGregor is a certainty to start, Ralston is expected to play more of a supporting role. Greg Taylor was not called up due to an injury, which saw him forced from the field against Hibs.
In goals, Clarke needs to decide who becomes the No.1 in Celtic Invincible Craig Gordon’s absence. The Hearts stopper suffered a broken leg on Christmas Eve and is out for the foreseeable meaning that the gloves are up for grabs for one of Norwich’s Angus Gunn, Motherwell’s Liam Kelly and Hearts’ Zander Clark.
In defence, Dom Hyam and Ralston were drafted into the squad to deal with former Celt Jack Hendry’s withdrawal. Premier League duo Kieran Tierney and Andy Robertson are nailed on to start in Clarke’s 3-5-2 formation but questions remain on who will occupy the other two central defender positions as well as right back with Ryan Porteous, Liam Cooper, Grant Hanley all vying for the two central roles. Meanwhile, Aaron Hickey and Nathan Patterson will fancy themselves ahead of Ralston to play at right-back.
In midfield, Callum McGregor and John McGinn will almost certainly start. The pair were Brendan Rodgers’ idea of Celtic’s future in the middle of the park before McGinn was sold to Aston Villa, where he enjoys hero status now. The third central midfield role will cause Clarke a headache.
Lewis Ferguson has been knocking at the door and his performances since moving to Italy might spur the manager on to make a change with Billy Gilmour’s lack of game time a concern. Ryan Jack, Kenny McLean and Stuart Armstrong have all done it before for Clarke and he will know their qualities.
In attack, Che Adams and Lyndon Dykes are often the preferred pairing. However, the manager has Ryan Christie and Jacob Browns to call upon in support.
Predicted XI: Gunn; Robertson (C), Tierney, Porteous, McTominay, Hickey; McGregor, McGinn, Ferguson; Adams, Dykes.
Kick Off Time
The game will kick off at 2pm (Celtic Park Time).
Where to Watch
The game will be shown exclusively on Viaplay for subscribers.