Home Nations rivals Scotland and Wales will face-off tomorrow at Hampden Park, with both sides needing a win to keep any hope alive of qualifying for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
The two bottom sides in Group A met last October at the Millenium Stadium with Wales emerging victorious thanks to a Gareth Bale double. James Morrison had earlier scored for the Scots and Steven Fletcher had a goal disallowed but like much of Craig Levein’s tenure as Scotland manager luck was not on their side.
Chris Coleman also has not endured the best of times as a national team manager. However, he picked up his second win as Wales manager in February when Austria were beaten 2-1. This gives them some momentum going into this match. Scotland also have a new sense of optimism with former Celtic boss Gordon Strachan now at the helm and he will be looking for a win in his first competitive match.
Several players could be in line to make their Scotland debuts, with Gary Mackay-Steven (Dundee United) and naturalised Englishmen Liam Bridcutt (Brighton and Hove Albion) and George Boyd (Hull City) all being picked by Strachan.
The hosts have suffered from a number of injury drop-outs in recent days; with Danny Fox (Southampton), James Morrison (West Bromwich Albion), James Forrest (Celtic) and Ross McCormack (Leeds United) all pulling out of the original squad. To replace them Gordon Strachan has called-up defender Steven Whittaker (Norwich City) and midfielder Barry Bannan (Aston Villa).
Scotland were also unable to pick key players Scott Brown (Celtic), Darren Fletcher (Manchester United) and Phil Bardsley (Sunderland) due to injury.
Full Scotland squad:
Matt Gilks (Blackpool), David Marshall (Cardiff), Allan McGregor (Besiktas), Alan Hutton (Real Mallorca), Steven Whittaker (Norwich), Christophe Berra (Wolves), Gary Caldwell (Wigan), Grant Hanley (Blackburn), Russell Martin (Norwich), Andy Webster (Hearts), Charlie Mulgrew (Celtic), Chris Burke (Birmingham City), Charlie Adam (Stoke), Barry Bannan (Aston Villa), James McArthur (Wigan), Liam Bridcutt (Brighton), Kris Commons (Celtic), Graham Dorrans (West Brom), Gary Mackay-Steven (Dundee Utd), Robert Snodgrass (Norwich), George Boyd (Hull), Steven Fletcher (Sunderland), Shaun Maloney (Wigan), Kenny Miller (Vancouver), Steven Naismith (Everton), Jordan Rhodes (Blackburn).
Scotland likely line-up;
McGregor, Hutton, Webster, Caldwell, Mulgrew, Adam, McArthur, Snodgrass, Maloney, Naismith, Fletcher.
Wales have also have a number of injury concerns in the run-up to the match. Wayne Hennessey (Wolverhampton Wanderers) and Adam Matthews (Celtic) were both ruled out of the initial squad while Steve Morison (Leeds), David Vaughan (Sunderland) and Joe Allen (Liverpool) all withdrew after it was announced. Jermaine Easter (Crystal Palace) and Lewin Nyatanga (Bristol City) were called up as replacements.
Wales also have some concern over star-man Gareth Bale (Tottenham Hotspur) who has not trained this week due to ankle injury. However, he should be fit to play.
Like his counterpart, Wales manager Chris Coleman has also called upon some inexperienced players with Crystal Palce youngster Jonathan Williams yet to make his debut for the national side.
Full Wales squad:
Boaz Myhill (West Bromwich Albion), Lewis Price (Crystal Palace), Owain Fôn Williams (Tranmere Rovers), Chris Gunter (Reading), Ashley Richards (Swansea City), James Collins (West Ham United), Joel Lynch (Huddersfield Town), Ashley Williams (Swansea City), Lewin Nyatanga (Bristol City), Sam Ricketts (Bolton Wanderers), Ben Davies (Swansea City), Jack Collison (West Ham United), Andy King (Leicester City), Joe Ledley (Celtic), Aaron Ramsey (Arsenal), Jonathan Williams (Crystal Palace), Gareth Bale (Tottenham Hotspur), Craig Bellamy (Cardiff City), Jermaine Easter (Crystal Palace), Simon Church (Reading), Hal Robson-Kanu (Reading), Sam Vokes (Burnley).
Likely Wales line-up;
Myhill, Gunter, Williams, Collins, Davies, Ramsey, Collison Ledley, Bale, Bellamy, Vokes
Both teams are in desperate need of a win to kick-off their 2014 World Cup Qualification campaign. Scotland will still be angry about the loss in Cardiff last year when a goal was wrongly chopped off and will look to try and take the game to Wales. The Welsh, however, will feel that they have beaten Scotland once and so can do it again.
Scotland are currently bottom of the group with two points and Wales are one place above them with three. Both Macedonia and Serbia are on four points however they will each face off against the two group leaders Croatia and Belgium which will give either Home Nation a chance to move into third place should the favourites win. However, Belgium and Croatia are both on 10 points which makes the chances of either country qualifying slim, they will have to win most of their remaining matches to stand any chance and a win tomorrow is vitally important for both.
source – bbc sport
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This article was first posted on March 22, 2013