Scotland boss Clarke wants league games moved forward ahead of Euro play-off

Steve Clarke insists Scotland will be ready for their Euro 2020 play-off semi-final against Israel whether or not domestic fixtures are moved to help preparation.

The crunch match will take place at Hampden Park on Thursday March 26 and the national team boss wants games in Scotland to be brought forward to the Friday night the weekend before to give his players as much rest as possible.

Clarke is aware that a good chunk of his squad play in England and also that Rangers and Celtic – who between them will provide the bulk of players based north of the border – would have to play on the Sunday if they are still involved in the Europa League.

Celtic and Rangers could be forced to play four days before Scotland's play-off because of Europa League commitments
Celtic and Rangers could be forced to play four days before Scotland’s play-off because of Europa League commitments (Jeff Holmes/PA)

With Israel having reportedly agreed to cancel its domestic fixture list
the weekend before the match, Clarke is looking for every advantage possible but is confident regardless.

He said: “All we asked for is common sense and if the broadcasters would not put a game on, on the Sunday, and if the league wouldn’t play any matches on the Sunday, that would be great.

“We also know that there is the potential for Celtic and Rangers to hopefully still be involved in the Europa League the week before which would mean that they would have to play on the Sunday.

“If that is the case we would have to deal with it.

“If, for example, the league could agree to come forward and play on the Friday night then you have the Saturday and Sunday for the players to recover and three working days to the game on the Thursday would be a benefit.

“They (Israel) have made their choice. Their players who play outside Israel will have fixtures outside Israel anyway and it would be similar here.

“We obviously have a lot of players potentially in the squad who are plying their trade down south and they will be playing matches that weekend.

“You just have to deal with what you have got and if it is a week to be ready we will be ready, if it is a day to be ready we will be ready.”

An SPFL spokesperson told the PA news agency that “conversations are on-going”.

The winners play either Serbia or Norway away in the final five days later and Clarke is optimistic that Scott McTominay, John McGinn and Kieran Tierney will have returned from their respective injuries.

Arsenal defender Tierney has had surgery on his dislocated right shoulder but is not likely to return to full training until March.

Manchester United midfielder McTominay is recovering from a knee ligament injury picked up on Boxing Day and Villa’s McGinn fractured his ankle in December and is set to miss up to three months.

Clarke said: “I am keeping my fingers crossed that the three mentioned recover well and can be available in March.

John McGinn is one of several injury doubts for the Israel game
John McGinn is one of several injury doubts for the Israel game (Nick Potts/PA)

“It will be close for all of them but always hopeful, never ruling anyone out at this stage.

“Whether they make it or not is a different story.

“I am optimistic that they will all make it. That’s what you have to be.”

Clarke, however, is confident that he has plenty of cover available.

The former Kilmarnock boss said: “Stuart Armstrong has played his way in (to the Southampton team), Kenny McLean is doing well at Norwich.

“John Fleck has been really good at Sheffield United this season. I enjoy watching them.

“A lot of time the media like to talk about players not in the team, I thought the midfielder pairing I have had in the last couple of games, Ryan Jack and Callum McGregor, did very well for us.”

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