Strachan to make late decision on Scotland team

Steven Fletcher (left) looks on as Robert Snodgrass plays a pass in Scotland training on Friday

Will Steven Fletcher (left) reclaim a starting spot alongside Robert Snodgrass or will Chris Martin remain up front?

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Scotland boss Gordon Strachan will make a late decision on his starting 11 as his side aim to build on an opening win in Malta with victory over Lithuania.

Defender Gordon Greer, who has a groin problem, is his only concern with striker Leigh Griffiths back training.

Strachan is likely to keep changes to a minimum but has selection dilemmas at left-back, midfield and up front.

Full-back Kieran Tierney, midfielder James McArthur and winger James Forrest have all been in good form of late.

Chris Martin could retain the striker’s role after scoring in that opening World Cup qualifying Group F tie, with Steven Fletcher also pushing for a recall after hitting the net after coming on as a substitute.

Leigh Griffiths, who has recovered from the injury that ruled him out in Malta, could have to settle for a place on the bench.

But Hearts’ Callum Paterson is set to retain his place at right-back, especially after the withdrawal through injury of the only other recognised right-back, Alan Hutton.

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Strachan ‘impressed’ by Lithuania

Russell Martin is likely to resume his central defensive partnership with Grant Hanley, despite the latter only starting one game for Newcastle United in the past month.

Captain Darren Fletcher and Robert Snodgrass, who scored a hat-trick in Malta, seem certain starters in central midfielder, but Barry Bannan and McArthur are joisting for a holding role while no less than four wingers are pushing for starts because of recent form.

‘No targets’ for double-header – Strachan

Scotland sit top of World Cup Qualifying Group F on goal difference from England after their 5-1 win in Malta.

The next four days gives them a chance to build on that strong start, hosting Lithuania – ranked 117 in Fifa’s world rankings – at Hampden before travelling to face the group’s second seeds, Slovakia.

Strachan admits his selections are taking longer than ever, particularly because of the form shown by his three left-backs – Tierney, Andrew Robertson and Lee Wallace.

“Some of the areas we are very strong, some I’d like to be stronger,” he said. “If you’re talking about individual areas – left-back, incredible, I mean incredible those three this week.

“As good as I have ever seen, the three of them training, as good as I’ve ever seen for a position.


Lithuania coach Edgaras Jankauskas has happy memories of Hampden Park

“We have people playing well, people not getting a game for their club, that’s a factor, but we still think they’re good players.”

Lithuania arrived in Scotland having opened their campaign with a 2-2 draw at home to Slovenia, with head coach Edgaras Jankauskas adopting a more positive tactical approach since taking over in January.

“I was impressed with Lithuania in their last two games,” Strachan said. “They are a real hard-working side, a bit different from years ago when teams a pot below you would come and sit in.

“They are quite prepared to push out and close you down and win the ball back. So it should be an interesting game.”

Scotland and Lithuania are familiar foes, having been drawn together in four consecutive European Championships qualifying campaigns, from Euro 2000 to Euro 2012.

The Scots are unbeaten in their last five meetings and have won five of their eight matches, including all four at home, and lost just once – a 1-0 defeat in Kaunas in 2003.

Lithuania drew with Poland ahead of their game against Slovenia, who they led 2-0 before conceding two late goals.

Jankauskas, the 41-year-old former Hearts striker who won the 2006 Scottish Cup with the Edinburgh club at Hampden, said: “We all know and accept that we are not the favourites, but all good and bad runs have to end at some point.

“I am not too concerned about the stats. What bothers me more is my team – the way we face such a strong, physical team as Scotland.

“The last few games have given us a good feeling and more confidence in ourselves.”

‘Only victory will be acceptable for Scotland’

Scotland were being held 1-1 at half-time against Malta, who ended the game with two men sent off.

“The first half gives us a little hope because, when Malta had all their players on the pitch, they did quite well,” said Jankauskas.

“I saw a lot of strengths in the Scotland team. It was a very good example in the last game against Malta when the full-backs just killed the game with their sharp runs and good crosses into the area.”

Jankauskas has two other former Hearts players in his squad – 35-year-old defender Deividas Cesnauskis, now back in his homeland with Trakai, and 25-year-old midfielder Arvydas Novikovas, now of Bochum in the German Bundesliga’s second tier.

“We have no players playing in the biggest leagues in England, Spain or Italy,” added the Lithuania coach. “I’m sure at some point that will show up on the pitch.

“We know we will have to put in a very good performance to match up to the Scottish team.”

Squads for Scotland v Lithuania


Goalkeepers: Craig Gordon (Celtic), Jack Hamilton (Hearts), David Marshall (Hull City).

Defenders: Christophe Berra (Ipswich Town), Gordon Greer (Blackburn Rovers), Grant Hanley (Newcastle United), Russell Martin (Norwich City), Callum Paterson (Hearts), Andrew Robertson (Hull City), Kieran Tierney (Celtic), Lee Wallace (Rangers).

Midfielders: Ikechi Anya (Derby County), Barry Bannan (Sheffield Wednesday), Oliver Burke (RB Leipzig), Darren Fletcher (West Bromwich Albion), James Forrest (Celtic), James McArthur (Crystal Palace), John McGinn (Hibs), Barrie McKay (Rangers), Shaun Maloney (Hull City), James Morrison (West Bromwich Albion), Matt Ritchie (Newcastle United), Robert Snodgrass (Hull City).

Forwards: Steven Fletcher (Sheffield Wednesday), Leigh Griffiths (Celtic), Chris Martin (Derby County), Steven Naismith (Norwich City).


Goalkeepers: Emilijus Zubas (Bnei Yehuda), Ernestas Setkus (Den Haag), Saulius Klevinskas (Zalgiris Vilnius).

Defenders: Deividas Cesnauskis (Trakai), Egidijus Vaitkunas (Zalgiris Vilnius), Georgas Freidgeimas (Irtysh Pavlodar), Vytautas Andriuskevicius (Portland Timbers), Tomas Mikuckis (Energiya Khabarovsk), Vaidas Slavickas (Suduva Marijampole), Linas Klimavicius (Zalgiris Vilnius), Edvinas Girdvainis (Piast Gliwice).

Midfielders: Arvydas Novikovas (Bochum), Vytautas Luksa (Zalgiris Vilnius), Arturas Zulpa (Tobol Kostanay), Matas Kyklys (Zalgiris Vilnius), Karolis Chvedukas (Split), Vykintas Slivka (Den Bosch), Simonas Paulius (Ventspils), Mindaugas Grigaravicius (Jelgava), Ovidijus Verbickas (Atlantas).

Forwards: Fiodor Cernych (Jagiellonia Bialystok), Deivydas Matulevicius (Botosani), Nerijus Valskis (Trakai).

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