Scotland go into their clash with Austria with renewed optimism following a 1-0 win against Moldova and their opponents’ crushing defeat against Israel.
Here, the PA news agency takes a look at some of the talking points surrounding the showdown in Vienna.
Scotland supporters were at a low ebb following last week’s comprehensive defeat in Denmark, but their victory over Moldova on Saturday coupled with Israel’s widely unexpected win over Austria has given Steve Clarke’s side renewed reason for optimism as they enter the second half of their qualifying campaign. If they can take at least a point in Vienna, they will go into the final four games ahead of Austria – the second seeds – and still well in the hunt to finish second and secure a play-off spot.
When the World Cup qualifying draw was made last year, Austria away looked to be one of the most formidable fixtures facing Clarke’s side. Earlier this year they drew 2-2 with Scotland at Hampden before enjoying a largely positive experience at Euro 2020 as they reached the last 16 before bowing out to eventual winners Italy. The vibe has changed, however, with a laboured 2-0 win in Moldova followed up by a 5-2 defeat in Israel, prompting suggestions manager Franco Foda has lost the dressing room. Bayern Munich playmaker Marcel Sabitzer’s withdrawal through injury does little to aid Austria’s cause. It seems reasonable to assume this may be as good a time as any for Scotland to be heading to Vienna.
Grant Hanley has emerged as an unlikely key man for Scotland since returning to the fold in March following a three-year absence from the national team. The Norwich centre-back has been one of the Scots’ best players this year and is likely to be a vital presence in defence if – as expected – the visitors come under periods of pressure from their hosts.
Ruthless edge required
Scotland’s 1-0 win over Moldova should have been more emphatic but they were made to sweat to the end after spurning several chances. The Scots have scored only two goals in their last five matches and boss Clarke pinpointed poor finishing as the biggest factor in their underwhelming form of late. They are unlikely to get many clear opportunities in Vienna so when chances come along, they must be clinical.
Which attacking combo starts?
In Denmark last week, Clarke started with winger Ryan Fraser playing off Che Adams before introducing the more powerful Lyndon Dykes to proceedings for the second half, sparking a slightly improved display from the Scots. Dykes then started alongside Kevin Nisbet against Moldova, with Ryan Christie in support. Dykes, who has scored in his last three goals for QPR, netted the only goal on Saturday and will be hopeful of keeping his place, while Adams is generally deemed to have been a good addition to the squad. Will the two start together in Vienna?
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