Scotland travel to Tbilisi to take on Georgia in a Euro 2016 qualifying match on Friday evening as the race to qualify for next summer’s finals in France intensifies. Scotland manager Gordon Strachan knows that a win for his side against Georgia will help them take a massive step towards qualification
Scotland have picked up 11 points from their opening six Group D fixtures and victory in Tbilisi would represent a significant boost in their efforts to qualify for their first major tournament since the 1998 World Cup in France. If Scotland fail to win against Georgia, then the pressure will be on for them to secure some sort of result over World Cup winners Germany next week at Hampden. Scotland’s main rivals in Group D, Germany, Poland and the Republic of Ireland have all secured wins in Georgia in this campaign and if Scotland are to have a realistic chance of qualifying for next summer’s final in France then they will have to follow suit. Scotland were 1-0 winners at Ibrox in the home leg of these fixtures but they have struggled in Georgia before, most recently in 2007 where a 2-0 defeat effectively killed Scotland’s chances of qualification for Euro 2008.
Since victory over Scotland that night, Georgia have won only four of their subsequent 35 competitive matches and have scored only once at home in competitive matches in the last three years. Manager Gordon Strachan has selection decisions to make, such as whether Celtic’s Charlie Mulgrew will play in central defence, as he did in the previous game against the Republic of Ireland, and also whether Steven Whittaker will replace Craig Forsyth at left back. Striker Leigh Griffiths has been in fine scoring form for Celtic but Strachan may choose to go with the more physical presence of Sunderland’s Steven Fletcher up front with Shaun Maloney, Steven Naismith and Ikechi Anya supporting from the midfield.
New Georgia coach Kakhaber Tskhadadze has named an experienced squad to face Scotland, including recalling a number of players who played in the 2007 match such as Levan Kenia of Slavia Prague and Levan Mchedlidze of Empoli. It is likely that Tskhadadze will set his team up with a five man defence as he did in the home matches against Poland and Germany meaning that Scotland will have to be at their attacking best to unlock the Georgian defence.
Scotland are the 2.05 (21/20) favourites for victory on Friday evening with Georgia available at 4.6 (18/5) and the draw 3.25 (9/4). The football tip is Scotland to win at 2.05 and claim a crucial three points.
By: Scott McGlynn