• Gordon Sheach

Squad - Russia (A) & San Marino (H) - Euro 2020

Scotland enter this International break with their chances of qualifying for Euro 2020 without using the escape hatch of the Nation's League Playoff hanging by a thread.

Two defeats last month to Russia and Belgium see Steve Clarke's side travel to Moscow 9pts behind the Russians, looking to kick start momentum towards the Playoffs in March.

Perhaps looking to create consistency of performance, Clarke has stuck largely with the group of players from the last international break. Only four players drop out (David Bates, Stuart Armstrong, Matt Phillips and Steven Naismith), replaced by Grant Hanley, Liam Palmer, John Fleck, Oli Burke and Lawrence Shankland.

Here's the breakdown of the group with an assessment of their club form so far this season:

No changes in the Goalkeeper unit. David Marshall has the gloves and despite conceding 6 in the last two games it would be surprise to see him replaced for this double header.

David Bates' lack of appearances for Sheffield Wednesday see him drop out. His team-mate Liam Palmer and Norwich's Grant Hanley who pulled out of the last squad injured return to the squad.

There is no place in the squad for Craig Halkett of Hearts or his team-mate John Souttar who is injured.

Scott McTominay will be on cloud nine after scoring his first goal at Old Trafford for Manchester United against Arsenal this week. He will be suspended for the game against Russia and will hope to open his account against San Marino.

John McGinn is another who is in excellent form. Since the last international break where he scored his first international goal against Russia he has added two more goals for Aston Villa - against Arsenal and Burnley (VAR denied him a brace v Burnley).

Sheffield United's John Fleck could be in line for a first cap after impressing with the Blades in the Premier League.

The main talking point in the Forwards group is the inclusion of Lawrence Shankland, the first player from the Scottish Championship to be called up for Scotland since John McGinn when he was with Hibernian. He brings red hot form with 13 goals in 11 games (a goal every 78 minutes).

Elsewhere, Oli Burke, scorer of the winning goal in Steve Clarke's first game against Cyprus rejoins the squad having settled at Deportivo Alaves.

The Tartan Scarf Age v League Minutes Matrix

Here, we look at the age profile of the squad v the % of league minutes each has played so far this season. The sample size of matches played has grown since the last international break, giving a more complete picture.

- The overall demographic of the squad is very positive, with the vast majority of the squad being in their peak years (24-30) and playing 50%+ of all league minutes.

- Only 4 players have played less than 50% of league minutes so far this season with understandable reasons - Hanley has been injured, Burke has been settling in Spain, Taylor joined Celtic and Snodgrass has so much competition at West Ham.

- From an age perspective, only 4 players are over the age of 30 and two of them are keepers.

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