Scotland kick-off their UEFA Nations League campaign tonight against Albania, hoping to give their fans a better showing after a disappointing 4-0 defeat to Belgium on Friday evening.
The sides have never met before, but Albania are no slouches. They come into this one off the back of a 1-0 win against Israel to put them top of Group 1 in Nations League C.
McLeish under early pressure in second Scotland spell
Alex McLeish’s second spell as manager of the national team hasn’t started well – the Scots have played five and lost four under the former Rangers and Birmingham boss, albeit in friendly fixtures, but Tartan Army supporters will demand a positive result tonight.
Scotland’s group isn’t straight forward in Group C, so a defeat tonight at Hampden would leave a mountain to climb this early in the campaign.
The Scots were dealt a harsh lesson by Belgium on Friday evening, with Romely Lukaku, Eden Hazard and co. strolling to a 4-0 win. However, while Albania should be treated with respect, they won’t be as strong as Belgium, and Scotland will have a good chance to get their campaign off and running.
McLeish will look to the likes of Leigh Griffiths for firepower, while Andrew Robertson and Kieran Tierney will be tasked with keeping the Albanian frontline at bay and getting forward to attack when they can.
Dark horses Albania out to hush Hampden
The last time Albania manager Christian Panucci visited Hampden in 2007, he scored a late winner for Italy to break Scottish hearts and end hopes of Euro 2008 qualification.
In their last 12 outings, Albania have lost only to France, Italy and Spain, so the Scots will have their work cut out to break down a team which consists of experienced players from Napoli, Malmo, Basel and Brescia to name a few.
The Albanians were impressive against Israel in their opening Group C fixture – a 1-0 win gives them the foundation to go out and play Scotland without fear and be the team to beat in that group.
However, they have also conceded nine goals to Ukraine, Kosova and Turkey in recent outings, so the Scots can take heart from this.
Christian Panucci’s side are a healthy 4/1 shot to win against Scotland tonight.
Expect cagey Hampden affair
I can’t see too many goals in this one, given that Scotland have only hit the net once in their last six outings.
Alex McLeish has also struggled to find his best team, with many of the players not playing many games together.
Albania will be tough to break down, and under 2.5 goals at 4/7 looks a fair price.
However, I’m going for Scotland to sneak this one. Leigh Griffiths doesn’t go too many games without a goal, and he hasn’t scored since Scotland’s 2-2 draw with Slovenia last October, and I fancy him to have his say in this one.
Griffiths to score any time and Scotland to win is 7/2.