Scotland get their UEFA Nations League campaign underway against Armenia looking to bounce back from the disappointment of missing out on the World Cup. While the Tartan Army endured one of their biggest frustrations in recent years last week, Armenia posted one of their most notable wins in years by defeating Republic of Ireland. Even if they were underdogs to defeat each of Ukraine and Wales in the space of a few days, Scotland head coach Steve Clarke and his squad were supremely confident of pulling off the task in hand.
However, their eight-game unbeaten streak and Ukraine’s lack of football counted for little as the visitors recorded a deserved 3-1 victory at Hampden Park, extending Scotland’s World Cup absence for at least another four years. While there were moments in the game when Scotland could have capitalised, Ukraine wasted their own chances, something which carried over into their subsequent disappointment in Cardiff on Sunday. As far as the Tartan Army are concerned, they must use the frustration as fuel for motivation, the nation well placed to make a strong bid for Nations League promotion if they can start with maximum points on Wednesday.
With Republic of Ireland and the reverse fixture in Armenia still to come before their June fixtures reach a conclusion, Clarke will be confident that they can seize control of League B Group 1 before a tougher triple-header in September. On the back of their 9-0 defeat in Norway at the end of March, Armenia boss Joaquin Caparros may have had to do some soul searching, aware that there are limitations when it comes to managing a side of the Mountaineers’ profile. Nevertheless, the flip side to that is that they can achieve moments which will live long in the memory of their supporters, a bounce-back 1-0 win over Republic of Ireland their first competitive success since beating Iceland and Romania in World Cup qualifying in March 2021.
Caparros will not get carried away at this stage, particularly when survival in the second tier is their priority, but one more victory in their remaining five games may be enough to meet that target. Aside from the Norway capitulation, Armenia have a relatively solid record away from home of late, earning draws in Croatia, North Macedonia and Iceland with their only other heavy defeat coming at the hands of Germany. Lyndon Dykes will miss out for Scotland after sustaining a quad injury during the defeat to Ukraine last week.
Ryan Christie or Stuart Armstrong are expected to be recalled in his place, while Nathan Patterson is in line to return to the substitutes’ bench after an ankle injury. Andrew Robertson may be handed a rest after his recent schedule, with Stephen O’Donnell or Greg Taylor both options in the wing-back areas. Armenia will be forced into one alteration with Arman Hovhannisyan having picked up an injury during the win over Republic of Ireland. Styopa Mkrtchyan should be drafted into the back five in what may prove to be the only change made by Caparros.
Scotland possible starting lineup:
Gordon; McTominay, Cooper, Hanley; Hickey, McGregor, Gilmour, Robertson; McGinn, Christie; Adams
Armenia possible starting lineup:
Yurchenko; Hambardzumyan, Haroyan, Mkoyan, Mkrtchyan, K. Hovhannisyan; Bayramyan, Grigoryan; Spertsyan; Bichakhchyan, Barseghyan