Scotland

Scotland vs San Marino

, KO: 17:00 Oct 13, 2019, Hampden
San Marino

WATCHING Scotland has become a feat of endurance and Hampden will feel like a morgue when San Marino come calling.

There were swathes of empty seats when only 25,000 fans turned up for the last home qualifier against Belgium so only the most patriotic of Tartan Army footsoldiers will bother marching on Mount Florida for this one.

Boss Steve Clarke admitted morale had hit rock bottom after Thursday's battering by Russia and he faces an almighty task rebuilding confidence ahead of the Euro 2020 play-offs.

That Scotland managed to secure a slot in the play-offs by topping their Nations League group was the one positive to be taken from Alex McLeish's grim second stint in charge.

Clarke was a popular choice when he replaced McLeish at the helm but results and performances have been just as bad on his watch, arguably even worse.

His sole win in five games came virtue of a 2-1 Hampden victory over Cyprus and even that was only secured by a late Oliver Burke strike.

The four matches since then have ended in comprehensive defeats, with the Scots shipping 13 goals and scoring just once across double-headers with Belgium and Russia.

The quality of opposition has to be factored into the equation, with the Belgians and Russians boasting world-class talents in their ranks, but it's the manner of the defeats that has deflated the Scotland support so much.

I worried for Clarke when the Russians came calling, mainly due to a depleted defence, and those fears were realised as they collapsed after taking the lead through John McGinn.

I tipped Artem Dzyuba to score in a Russian win that night and the Zenit battering ram obliged by sparking a comeback win that could have been more emphatic.

Belgium cut apart the same fragile defence just days later, with Kevin de Bruyne running riot, and Clarke's cause wasn't helped when he suffered more injuries at the back ahead of this latest double-header.

With Leeds stopper Liam Cooper and Norwich's Grant Hanley pulling out of his original squad, Clarke was forced to call-up Aberdeen's Mikey Devlin and Declan Gallagher of Motherwell.

Devlin was thrown in at the deep end against Russia in Moscow and initially impressed alongside Charlie Mulgrew, with the Scots going in level at half-time.

But once Dzyuba had broken the deadlock with a brilliant volley, bring up two tips from our man Slips, Scotland's defence collapsed yet again, unable to cope with the big striker and Russia's supremely talented playmaker Aleksandr Golovin.

The good news for Clarke is that San Marino don't have anywhere near the same kind of weapons in their arsenal, having drawn a blank in all seven of their qualifiers.

The minnows, ranked the worst side in the world by FIFA, have also shipped 37 goals in the section so Scotland couldn't have asked for an easier opponent as they bid to boost their shattered confidence.

Even in such dismal form, Clarke's side should win this one comfortably, with some bookies making them 1/1000 favourites and San Marino as big as 136/1 with Betfair Exchange.

Even a Scotland win with a clean sheet is a best 1/9 with Bet365 so you need to look at the handicap and goals markets to find any value.

In the darkest days of the McLeish reign, the Scots won just 2-0 in San Marino coming off the back of a horrendous 3-0 loss in Kazakhstan.

So the 8/5 Bet365 are offering in the handicaps on San Marino + 5 looks excellent value, especially with Scotland lacking a top-class centre forward. I can see this being either 3-0 or 4-0, which are available at 17/2 and 6/1 respectively with BetVictor.

Lawrence Shankland was given his debut in the second half against Russia and should get the nod to start here with Oliver Burke out injured. Even though he's playing in Scotland's second tier for Dundee United, the 24-year-old is a natural finisher and that's exactly what Clarke needs for this game.

Shankland is sadly a best 1/8 with Betway for anytime scorer but the odds increase to a better 8/13 with the same firm for the hitman to bag two or more goals.

Scotland will want an early goal to get the small crowd onside and that lends appeal to the 5/4 Skybet are offering on a goal for the home side in the first 10 minutes.

I expect Clarke to make a few changes in a bid to freshen things up, with Celtic duo James Forrest and Ryan Christie likely to come in. Christie is 15/4 with Betway for first scorer and that looks a good bet.

Gallagher could also get a debut in defence and might be a good anytime scorer option at 4/1 with Betway given his aerial threat from set-pieces.

This match between Scotland and San Marino will be played on Oct 13, 2019 and kick off at 17:00

Scotland vs San Marino Betting Tips & Predictions
San Marino +5 handicap
8/5
Bet365
Ryan Christie first scorer
15/4
Betway
Scotland to win 4-0
6/1
BetVictor

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