Opposition Analysis – Czech Republic (H)
Our match against Slovakia on Sunday marked the halfway stage of our Nations League campaign, and with a Playoff Final in the bag as well as being top of the table, the Tartan Army couldn’t have hoped for much more since international football finally made its return in 2020.
Our opponents tonight are the Czech Republic, but you can be rest assured that the squad we are due to face will resemble little of the team which we played over in Olomouc. After their squad who beat Slovakia was completely withdrawn and replaced, Clarke’s men lined up against a squad who had probably been planning to watch the match on TV a week prior to kick off.
It was a sticky affair, with the patchwork Czech squad not making it easy for us, but we got the job done with Dykes opening his international account and Christie adding to his growing tally. This time around the Czech’s still have some COVID troubles, but nothing like what they experienced last month.
Head coach Jaroslav Šilhavý has tested positive for the virus and as a result has gone into isolation, meaning the reigns will be handed to assistant coach Jiri Chytry. The Czech’s lie in second place, 1pt behind us and will be coming to Hampden with only one thing on their mind. Having watched from afar as their second-string side were defeated on their own turf, they’ll be looking to make up for what they will feel are unfairly dropped points.
Putting our match against them aside, their full-strength squad is undefeated so far in the 2020 UEFA Nations League winning both their games away against Slovakia 3-1 and Israeli 2-1. They also had a friendly match in Cyprus while our playoff semi-final was taking place, which they won 2-1.
Looking at their squad there is no standout names compared to Czech squads of the past, such as Čech and Nedvěd. Their latest squad update via their official Twitter indicates that they will have the likes of West Ham’s pair Souček and Coufal, Burnley’s Vydra who scored the winner in Israel and Spartak Moscow’s Král. Their captain Darida who plays in the Bundesliga for Hertha Berlin will also be available having featured in their last two games, scoring against the Cypriots.
Tomáš Holeš who was in the second-string squad to face Scotland last month obviously did enough to impress as he earned a recall. He featured in both the Cyprus and Israel matches however according to the squad update he does not appear to be included for tonight’s match.
Fenerbahçe’s Filip Novák is also listed in the squad to face Scotland but according to Sky Sports he will be missing from their ranks, so it remains to be seen if he will be present.
Should he be missing he will join the list of absentees along with Hellas Verona’s Barak, as well as the experienced Borek Dockal and highly rated youngster Adam Hlozek who both play for Sparta Prague. Their top goal scorer from the EURO 2020 Qualifiers Patrik Schick, former RB Leipzig now Bayer Leverkusen striker, is also absent which is another bonus for Scotland.
In terms of how they setup, their preferred formation would appear to be a 4-2-3-1, with the two sitting deep consisting of Souček and Král when both fit, and Darida ahead of them in the middle of the three. Matej Vydra who as mentioned scored their second against Israel would be expected to start up top as the lone striker.
Looking at the defenders within their squad they don’t seem to have the same imbalance and selection issues that we do, with options at both right and left back. Coufal and Boril would be decent bets for who will line up as fullbacks for them but if, like their official twitter updated us on, Novák is included then he is another who could easily find himself starting for them.
The Czech Republic will be a difficult opponent for Scotland to overcome. Their second-string side made it rather uncomfortable for us, but this game will be an even tougher test even if it is at home.
However, that is a seven-game unbeaten run that Clarke’s men have racked up, and optimism and confidence is growing on and off the pitch. It will remain to be seen if Clarke sticks with the three at the back system, but after Sunday’s match against Slovakia it was clear to see we are improving as we continue to adjust to how Clarke wants his team to play.
There was more fluidity and better link up throughout the team with individuals more confident in their roles and in themselves. It was also reassuring for once to watch us see a game out sitting on a one goal lead with control and calmness as the final minutes ticked away. The Czech’s won’t make it as easy as Slovakia did for us, but the Tartan Army can have confidence going into this final fixture before out playoff final that we’re going the right direction. It is in no doubt that the Czech’s will have travelled here expecting a game.