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Armenia v Scotland: Visitors must trust in Steve Clarke's blueprint for success – Callum McGregor

Scotland were comfortable winners at home to Armenia last week
Scotland were comfortable winners at home to Armenia last week
Nations League Group B1: Armenia v Scotland
Venue: Vazgen Sargsyan Republican Stadium, Yerevan Date: Tuesday, 14 June Kick-off: 17:00 BST
Coverage: Listen on BBC Radio Scotland DAB/810MW, live text commentary on the BBC Sport website & app

Scotland must “stand together” and “trust” head coach Steve Clarke as they visit Armenia on Nations League duty in the wake of disappointment in Dublin, midfielder Callum McGregor says.

The same opponents were brushed aside 2-0 at Hampden last week, but that was followed by a dismal 3-0 defeat away to Republic of Ireland.

“The manager has done a lot of good work with this group of players, so it’s important now that we trust him and stand behind him,” Celtic captain McGregor said.

Scotland went into June’s fixtures on an eight-game unbeaten run, having finished their World Cup qualifying group strongly to enter the play-offs.

However, Ukraine were too good for Clarke’s side in the Glasgow semi-final and a woeful showing against the Irish has soured the buoyant mood further.

  • Scotland have given themselves ‘a lot to do’
  • ‘Scotland search for answers after Dublin debacle’
  • Pick your Scotland XI for Armenia away

“The manager has done a great job,” McGregor said. “Look at where the national team was when he came in. He’s made a huge impact, getting us to the first tournament in 23 years and a play-off semi-final, which is the closest we’ve been to a World Cup for many, many years as well.

“There’s a building process in place. By no means are we the finished article, or do we think that we have arrived. There’s a lot of work to be done and the players and staff all understand that.”

With Ukraine on maximum points from two games and hosting the Irish in Lodz, Scotland cannot afford to fall further behind the top seeds in Nations League Group B1.

McGregor is adamant “the blueprint for success is there”, explaining: “It’s about trying to learn from it, the small details. We have to stick together when we come under criticism. That’s the time when you stand together as a group.

“Of course there is big pressure off the back of a disappointing performance. We have to show everyone we are hurt by what happened at the weekend.”

Armenia followed their Hampden defeat by a 3-0 loss to Ukraine in Poland, with head coach Joaquin Caparros again mixing up his forward options without any signs of goalscoring threat.

Asked if he would adopt the heavily defensive attacks of previous matches, the Spaniard replied: “It’s very difficult to plan how you will play.

“The game itself will dictate whether we play attacking or defensive football. You will find out during the game.”

Team news

Clarke revealed he has “significant doubts” in terms of fitness, without going into any details, merely saying there would be “some rotation”.

Leeds United centre-half Liam Cooper left the squad prior to the weekend to get married, as did uncapped goalkeeper Zander Clark.

Armenia made eight changes for Saturday’s 3-0 loss in Lodz, with combative captain Varazdat Haroyan, the Cadiz centre-half, among those rested and Krasnodar midfielder Eduard Spertsyan, who scored in the opening 1-0 home win over the Irish, missing.

What they said

Scotland head coach Steve Clarke: “Probably the reaction to the game on Saturday is as much a case of, ‘where did that come from?’ It was a little bit of a head scratcher.

“I don’t think there is any more pressure on this game than there would be normally, but it is important in the context of the Nations League because we want to go to the September games with a realistic chance of topping the group. I hope the players play as well as they can play because, if they play as well as they can play and take their A game to the pitch, it is a game that we should win.”

Armenia head coach Joaquin Caparros: “Each team can beat the other team and our group is very strong with very strong teams. And also playing at home was very important for Ireland.

“We know Scotland are a very good team and very well prepared mentally and physically, but we will do our best to play with our heart and soul and use all of our knowledge to make our people happy.”

Match Stats

  • Armenia have won their last two home games, both by 1-0 over Montenegro and Republic of Ireland, having previously gone three without a win – drawing 1-1 with Luxembourg before losing 5-0 to North Macedonia and 4-1 to Germany.
  • Scotland have gone two away games without a win, drawing with Austria and losing to Republic of Ireland, following consecutive victories in Austria, Faroe Islands and Moldova.
  • Armenia currently sit 92nd in the Fifa world rankings, with Scotland in 39th.
  • Montenegrin referee Nikola Dabanovic took charge of Rangers’ 1-1 draw away to Brondby in the Europa League group stage in November and Aberdeen’s 1-0 qualifying defeat away to Sporting Lisbon in September 2020, plus Celtic’s 4-1 win away to AIK and Rangers’ 1-1 draw with Porto in 2019.

Pick your Scotland XI to face Armenia

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