Euro 2024-bound Scots still have work to do – Clarke

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Scotland are on their way to Euro 2024 but are seeking to end a run of defeats
Venue: Dinamo Arena, Tbilisi Date: Thursday, 16 November Kick-off: 17:00 GMT
Coverage: Listen on BBC Radio Scotland Extra, live text on the BBC Sport website & app

Steve Clarke says Scotland still have a bit of “work to do” as they prepare to face Georgia away in their penultimate Euro 2024 qualifier.

Scotland have secured a place in Germany with two games to spare but face a tricky test in a country they have historically struggled, losing on their past two visits.

Clarke’s side are also on a run of three straight defeats.

“Listen, we want to get back to winning ways,” said Clarke.

“It’s not very often in the reign I’ve had, apart from the early stages, that we’ve had consecutive defeats like we’ve had recently so it’d be nice to think in the remaining two games we can pick up more points.

“What’s past is the past, there’s nothing we can do to affect that. All we can do is affect the future, the next game. When you go away from home against a team like Georgia it’s going to be a difficult environment, it’s going to be a difficult game for us because I think they’re a very good side.

“The one game they lost heavily was to Spain and that’s a little bit of an anomaly in their fixtures recently because all their games have been very competitive and we expect another one tomorrow night.

“I’ve always said we want to get as high a points tally as possible. We’ve two more games to try and do that.”

Scotland’s defeats came in testing friendlies against England and France alongside their competitive loss in Spain. Two wins over Georgia and Norway would guarantee a pot two place in the draw for Euro 2024, though – something Clarke sees as over the horizon right now.

“The idea with the two friendly matches against England and France was to test yourself against the best, see how you measure up and obviously with the results in both games we still have a bit of work to do,” he explained.

“We just stay focussed, respect every opponent and just try to improve all the time. Next summer will take care of itself.

“At the moment the objective is to get as many points as we can in this qualifying group, so questions about Germany, I’ll answer them, or will start to answer them better in March.”

That said, places in the squad remain up for grabs and injuries to key players present opportunities to stake a strong case in remaining fixtures for inclusion in the final squad.

Captain Andrew Robertson as well as fellow regulars Kieran Tierney, Angus Gunn, Aaron Hickey and Che Adams are among those sidelined.

Clarke believes there is strength in depth as he approaches his 50th match in charge of the national side, something he has tried to identify since taking on the role.

“I think over the course of my tenure I’ve always tried to look a little bit deeper,” said the 60-year-old.

Team news

Scotland are missing key players through injury with decisions to be made in defence and the goalkeeping position with Gunn unavailable. Clarke was non-committal on who would take that spot, with both Liam Kelly and Zander Clark given debuts in the recent defeat by France.

There seems an opportunity in both wing-back positions and central defence with Robertson, Hickey and Tierney out, while in-form Lawrence Shankland has been drafted in to replace Adams on the back of five goals in his past five matches.

What kind of state are Georgia in?

BBC Scotland commentator Alasdair Lamont

Georgia were in fabulous form before that freakish summer’s night at Hampden, which was followed up by a 7-1 thrashing in Tbilisi by Spain and a 2-1 defeat in Oslo.

They will be feeling a bit better about themselves having beaten Cyprus and Thailand since, scoring 12 goals in the process.

And if Scotland needed reminding about the difficulty of earning a positive result in Georgia, the fact that Spain are the only team to have won there in their last 10 games will suffice.

Despite sitting fourth in Group A, Georgia are still in with a shout of going to Germany through the Nations League play-offs, having won their group in League C.

They are currently the top-ranked team in League C and as long as they can retain a place in the top four -and a win over Scotland will certainly help in that regard – they could yet join the Scots at Euro 2024.

What they said

Scotland manager Steve Clarke: “There will be some squads like this one where there are a number of players missing. It’s a chance for someone else. If anyone else can do better it makes my selection more difficult going into next year and the selection will be difficult for me.

“I have to find the right 23 for next summer. For now, some boys are in the squad with a chance to make a big impression on not just me but the rest of the staff and the rest of the country. Let’s see how they perform in the game.”

Match stats

  • Georgia have won both of their home matches against Scotland previously, with both coming in European Championship qualifiers, winning 2-0 in 2007 and 1-0 in 2015.
  • The home side has won all five previous meetings between Georgia and Scotland, keeping a clean sheet in the last four victories. The only player to score an away goal in this fixture was Georgia’s Shota Arveladze in March 2007.
  • Georgia have won 13 of their last 20 matches in all competitions (D3 L4), winning their last two games by an aggregate score of 12-0: an 8-0 win over Thailand and 4-0 win against Cyprus.
  • Scotland – who have already qualified for Euro 2024 – have lost their last three matches in all competitions by a two-goal margin or more for the first time in their history. They last lost four in a row overall in October 2019.
  • Georgia’s last 11 games in all competitions have seen 45 goals scored (27 for, 18 against), an average of just over four per game. In 2023 alone, they have set their record for biggest defeat (1-7 vs Spain) and biggest victory (8-0 vs Thailand) in their international history.
  • Only France (1) and Portugal (2) have conceded fewer goals in Euro 2024 qualifying than Scotland (3). Steve Clarke’s have kept four clean sheets, only recording more in a single European Championship qualifying campaign for the 1988 (6) and 1996 (7) tournaments.
  • Georges Mikautadze has scored five goals in his last two appearances for Georgia in all competitions, one more than he had in his first 18 appearances for the national side (4).
  • Scott McTominay has scored six goals in Euro 2024 qualifying – only Steven Fletcher (7 for Euro 2016) and John McGinn (7 for Euro 2020) have scored more in a single qualifying campaign for Scotland.

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