Cyprus

Cyprus vs Scotland

, KO: 14:00 Nov 16, 2019, GSP Stadium
Scotland

STEVE CLARKE desperately needs to restore Scotland's pride and shattered confidence in the final two games before the Euro 2020 play-offs in March.

The Scots boss began his reign with a 2-1 win over Cyprus at Hampden but it has been pretty grim fare since then with the Tartan Army growing increasingly disillusioned.

Home and away defeats to big guns Belgium and Russia ended any notion of Scotland reaching the Euro 2020 finals with a two-top finish in Group I, although such a scenario was unlikely from the moment Alex McLeish presided over a 3-0 defeat to Kazakhstan in the opening fixture.

The Scots now head to Nicosia a point behind the Cypriots who showed they were no mugs by doing what Big Eck's side failed to manage as they beat the Kazakhs 2-1 in Astana.

Had Oliver Burke not scored a last-gasp winner at Hampden on Clarke's debut in the dugout then Scotland would be four of adrift of Cyprus so a vastly improved performance will be needed to secure a morale-boosting win.

Given the way the group has panned out, I'm surprised to see the Cypriots as big as 14/5 with Marathonbet for a win, with Clarke's side doing little to justify their status as 23/20 favourites with Bet365.

Scotland did manage to skelp San Marino 6-0 in Glasgow last time out but it has to be remembered that the minnows are ranked as the worst team in the world by FIFA alongside mighty Anguilla.

I didn't expect the Scots to score that many against San Marino, tipping a 4-0 win, and John McGinn's hat-trick underlined the quality Clarke has in midfield.

But he still lacks a top-class centre-forward and is desperately short of quality in central defence, with yet more injuries striking his squad this time.

Kilmarnock's Stuart Findlay and Wigan's Charlie Mulgrew, starters in recent games, were left out of the squad after picking up injuries while Leeds stopper Liam Cooper also pulled out injured on Monday.

That has left Clarke with just Aberdeen duo Scott McKenna and Mikey Devlin plus Motherwell's Declan Gallagher as options for his centre-back pairing, summing up the lack of strength in depth.

Skipper Andy Robertson withdrew on Tuesday and, with Kieran Tierney left out at Arsenal's request, that leaves Celtic understudy Greg Taylor as the only fit left-back.

There's also a problem further down the left flank, with Bournemouth's Ryan Fraser also crocked. That's s huge setback as he's arguably Scotland's best attacking outlet.

The injury to Manchester United midfielder Scott McTominay is also a blow but that's softened by the fact Clarke has several top-class central midfielders to choose from.

McGinn, Callum McGregor, Ryan Christie, Ryan Jack, Kenny McLean, Stuart Armstrong and John Fleck are all capable of playing at this level so the Scots should win the midfield battle.

But that makeshift defence still can't be trusted so I'm wary of backing any outright result. The best option may be going for goals, with both teams to score decent value at evens with SportNation.

Over 2.5 match goals also looks a good shout at 13/10 with Marathonbet, given it has come up in every Scotland match since Clarke replaced McLeish at the helm and in Cyprus' last three games.

The Cypriots were spanked 5-0 at home by Russia last time out but bear in mind that they had a man sent off after just 27 minutes when the score was only 2-0. Konstantinos Laifis of Standard Liege was the man who saw red so the defender will sit this one out and that will be a boost for the Scots.

My biggest gripe with Clarke so far has been his reluctance to play James Forrest and Fraser in the same team. They are clearly the biggest threat for Scotland, offering pace, decent deliveries and goals from out wide, yet Clarke has only played them in the same starting line-up twice.

Instead of going with two out-and-out wingers, he has often played a central midfielder such as Robert Snodgrass or Christie out wide.

Fraser's injury will probably see that trend continue but Forrest should at least start in Cyprus, with Snodgrass now retired from international football. The Celtic man is in fine form and looks good value for anytime scorer at 10/3 with Bet365.

Copenhagen striker Pieros Sotiriou is the most likely scorer for Cyprus, having netted in that impressive 2-1 win over the Kazakhs. He has 10 for the season and is 5/2 with Paddy Power to add to that tally here.

 

This match between Cyprus and Scotland will be played on Nov 16, 2019 and kick off at 14:00

Cyprus vs Scotland Betting Tips & Predictions
Both teams to score
Evens
SportNation
James Forrest anytime scorer
10/3
10Bet
Over 2.5 goals
13/10
Marathonbet

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