Home Sport Euro play-off the focus, says Clarke

Euro play-off the focus, says Clarke

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Scotland drawn with Israel, Slovakia and Czech Republic in Group 2 of UEFA Nations League B

Last Updated: 03/03/20 10:14pm

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Scotland manager Steve Clarke says Scotland must concentrate on facing Israel in their Euro 2020 play-off before thinking about facing them again in the Nations League

Scotland manager Steve Clarke says Scotland must concentrate on facing Israel in their Euro 2020 play-off before thinking about facing them again in the Nations League

Scotland boss Steve Clarke insists he is not prepared to look too far ahead after his side were again drawn with Israel in the UEFA Nations League.

The draw for the second instalment of the competition, which commences in September, was made in Amsterdam on Tuesday, with Scotland placed in Group 2 of League B alongside Israel, Slovakia and the Czech Republic.

But Clarke says the small matter of a European Championship play-off against the Israelis in March, where the winners will face Norway or Serbia for a place in Euro 2020, is his priority.

“I think the most important game for Scotland, and I’m sure for Israel as well, is the game coming up in March,” Clarke told Sky Sports News.

“Rather than look too far ahead into the next Nations League, it’s better to concentrate on this one and try and make our way to Euro 2020 through the qualifier.

“I’m learning as you go along in this job and it is not to look too far ahead.”

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Former Scotland boss Craig Brown says he is optimistic Scotland will beat Israel in their forthcoming play-off in March

Former Scotland boss Craig Brown says he is optimistic Scotland will beat Israel in their forthcoming play-off in March

The 56-year-old, who could become the first coach to lead Scotland to a major championships since Craig Brown in 1998, says he will take his time before making decisions on his next squad.

Clarke, who on SFA advice was not present for the draw itself, instead attended Chelsea’s FA Cup fifth-round tie against Liverpool where he was able to watch national team captain Andy Robertson and one of Scotland’s big future prospects in Chelsea’s Billy Gilmour.

But his preparations for the Israel test were dealt a double defensive blow with news that two of his centre-halves are set for extended spells on the treatment table.

Both John Souttar and Scott McKenna suffered serious injuries while playing for Hearts and Aberdeen respectively and Clarke is likely to have to make do without both for the foreseeable future.

Scott McKenna faces the rest of the season on the sidelines after suffering a hamstring injury against St Mirren Scott McKenna faces the rest of the season on the sidelines after suffering a hamstring injury against St Mirren

Scott McKenna faces the rest of the season on the sidelines after suffering a hamstring injury against St Mirren

The Scotland boss was, however, optimistic about the potential for Scotland to play Israel in front of a sell-out crowd and believes a packed Hampden could make the difference.

“They’re both in a bad way but listen we’ve got other bodies,” Clarke said of the injuries to Souttar and McKenna.

“I’m not looking too far ahead because there’s plenty more games to play before I name the squad, and get the squad together.

“It certainly looks as though we’re heading towards a full house at Hampden.

“Any time we get a full house at Hampden, there’s always a great atmosphere and it gives the players that little bit extra.”

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