Scotland vs BelgiumEuro 2020, KO: 19:45 Sep 9, 2019, Hampden Park
SCOTLAND's hopes of qualifying for Euro 2020 via the traditional qualification process suffered an all but fatal blow on Friday night after falling to a 2-1 defeat against Russia.
John McGinn pounced early on to put the Scots in dreamland, however, thereafter Steve Clarke's patched up defence was duly picked apart by a Russian side who's superiority seen them stage a deserved comeback to prevail with all three points.
It was a harmful setback at Hampden for Clarke and Co and one that marked Scotland's first competitive defeat on home turf in four years, and as a consequence has left Scottish hopes of automatic qualification for Euro 2020 hanging by a thread.
Scotland will help host next summer's showpiece and it looks increasingly likely the Tartan Army's dreams of ending their international exile from major tournaments now hinges on the Nations League play-offs.
Yet, despite such a damaging defeat on Friday night, Scotland can still mathematically make next year's finals by escaping Group I, however Clarke will have to pull a rabbit out of the hat to do so – starting on Monday night against a Belgium team ranked number one in the world.
Roberto Martinez's star-studded side haven't broken sweat in the section while cruising to five wins and and as such the visitors are as short as 2/5 (Ladbrokes) to continue their flawless form in Glasgow.
Belgium's imperious record does not bode well for a Scotland team in desperate need of positive result – something that is deemed unlikely in the bookmakers eyes with a home win at Hampden priced as high as 8/1 (Bet 365) while the draw is an unfancied 4/1 (Bet 365) with he same firm.
Clarke's troops were brushed aside in Brussels back in June when Belgium ran out comfortable 3-0 winners and a repeat of that outcome in Glasgow pays 17/2 (BetVictor)
A Romelu Lukaku double either side of the interval put the Scots to the sword on matchday four and after the bulky Belgian forward was rested in Friday's 4-0 stroll against San Marino, he could be set to become the scourge of Scotland yet again.
Lukaku swapped Manchester for Milan over the Summer, departing Man United to join Inter, and the towering striker has already notched two goals in as many Serie A outings.
On the international stage the Belgian forward boasts an incredible return of 48 goals from 81 appearances for his country, two of which have come form striking first against Scotland in the last 12 months – Lukaku is 10/3 (PaddyPower) to continue that trend on Monday night
However, on account of Belgium's abundance off attacking options, it may be a more shrewd move to plump for the prolific Lukaku in the anytime goalscorer market at a tempting 11/10 (Betfred)
Belgium drew a lot of attention on Friday night in requiring a 43rd-minute penalty to breakthrough against minnows San Marino, following which they romped to a routine 4-0 victory.
In doing so Martinez's side scored in both halves – something Belgium have managed to do in four of their five Group I outings – and I fancy a repeat of that at an eye-catching 29/20 (William Hill) against a depleted and ropey Scottish rearguard.
Scotland could have lost more heavily last time out had the Russians been more ruthless in front of goal, but don't expect the superstars from Belgium to be so forgiving.
The Belgian backline has only been breached once in five Group I assignments to date, however it wouldn't come a surprise to me if Scotland delivered an improved performance against one of the heavyweights of international football.
With no expectancy or pressure from the home crowd, Clarke's underdogs could have their moments on Monday night, and it is worth noting that Scotland have scored in their last 22 European Championship qualifiers on home soil – the Scots are 10/11 (William Hill) to take that tally to 23.
However, even in the event of a home goal, I fully expect this Belgian juggernaut to continue rolling towards Euro 2020.
Scotland look up against it against a strong Belgian team who are odds-on favourites for another three points here, however, an alternative angle to consider is backing Belgium to win and over 1.5 goals at 8/11 (Betway) – an outcome that would have paid out in each of Belgium's last 12 triumphs.
This Euro 2020 match between Scotland and Belgium will be played on Sep 9, 2019 and kick off at 19:45