Scotland vs IsraelEuro 2020, KO: 19:45 Oct 8, 2020, Hampden
SCOTLAND stand just two games away from their first major finals in over two decades but Covid-19 has cast a cloud over their Euro 2020 semi-final showdown with Israel yet again.
The virus caused this Hampden clash to be moved from its original date and it's having an impact yet again with both sides without a host of key players.
Israel were affected first, with Dan Bitton, Taleb Tawatha, Dor Peretz, Yonatan Cohen and Avi Rikan all denied the chance to travel to Glasgow. That seemed to hand the advantage to Scotland but Steve Clarke's squad were hit with their own outbreak just a day before the game.
Stuart Armstrong's positive test ruled out the Southampton midfielder and also forced Arsenal star Kieran Tierney and Celtic midfielder Ryan Christie into self-isolation, throwing Clarke's plans into chaos.
Scott McKenna, Liam Palmer and Oliver Burke will also miss out through injury so with both teams ravaged by call-offs this tie is even harder to call.
It was a 3-2 Nations League win over the Israelis in Glasgow that gave Scotland the safety net of a play-off place almost two years ago when Alex McLeish was in charge.
But Big Eck was axed after a dismal start to the actual Euro qualifiers, with Clarke drafted in midway through the campaign with an eye to building the team in his image before the play-offs.
The former Kilmarnock boss (below) will argue he has done exactly that, given his side head into this crunch clash on the back of a five-game unbeaten run.
Yet Clarke's decision to change tactics and go for a three-man defence in the new Nations League campaign didn't exactly fill the fans with confidence as the Scots laboured to a 1-1 draw with Israel at home then only just managed to see off a shadow Czech Republic side 2-1 on the road.
With Tierney ruled out, he will probably have to go back to a flat back four and that could prove to be a blessing in disguise as the players seemed ill at ease in the new system.
How the bookies view it
Scotland had been heavy favourites before Armstrong's test but they are now a best 7/5 with BetVictor while the Israelis are 23/10 at Paddy Power. The draw is 11/5 with Bet365 and that might attract a few punters.
Head to head
Scotland have a decent record against the Israelis, winning four of their six encounters and suffering just one defeat. These teams will be sick of the sight of each other as this is their fourth meeting in less than two years.
In the last Nations League campaign, Israel won 2-1 at home only for the Scots to get revenge with that 3-2 Hampden win (below). The last meeting was that forgettable 1-1 draw at Hampden last month, with Ryan Christie's penalty cancelled out by a stunning Eran Zahavi goal.
Players to watch
James Forrest scored a hat-trick in that 3-2 thriller against the Israelis but the Celtic winger misses out injured for this one. QPR new boy Lyndon Dykes came up trumps for me when I tipped him to score against the Czechs in the Nations League. He has impressed in his first two caps and should get the nod to start here so I'll stick with him at 5/2 with Paddy Power.
Israel may be missing a lot of players but they still have two deadly strikers in the shape of Zahavi and Munas Dabbur. PSV new boy Zahavi is 13/5 with Unibet to score while Hoffenheim's Dabbur offers a bit better value at 16/5 with Betway.
Anything else catch the eye?
Both teams to score has come up in the last three games between these nations while Scotland's only clean sheet in their last 10 matches came at home to mighty San Marino. Backing both teams to score here pays 21/20 at William Hill and that looks good value.
There has been nothing between these teams and I can see it being similar here. A one-goal winning margin for either side pays 13/10 at Betway while the odds increase to 13/5 with Bet365 if you limit that to just Scotland.
It could turn into a midfield scrap at times so the 7/2 Bet365 are offering on a card for Aston Villa's John McGinn appeals.
This Euro 2020 match between Scotland and Israel will be played on Oct 8, 2020 and kick off at 19:45. Check below for our tipsters best Scotland vs Israel prediction.