McLeish wants Scotland to derail Israel’s Nations League hopes

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Alex McLeish has told Scotland they can derail Israel and Albania’s Nations League hopes if they avoid hitting the buffers on Thursday.

The Scots travel to Haifa to take on the Israelis in their second Group C1 fixture. Victory would give McLeish’s men a perfect six points from six – and keep them on track for the play-offs and a short cut to Euro 2020.

Israel have managed just one victory in their last 10 games and now McLeish wants his men to inflict more misery on Andreas Herzog’s side.

The Scotland team celebrate beating Albania
Scotland beat Albania 2-0 in the Nations League at Hampden Park (Ian Rutherford/PA)

“They haven’t won for a wee while but we saw the Russians at the World Cup and they went in without a win in seven games but all of a sudden blitzed their own tournament.

“We want to get to those kind of levels now. We’re bracketed with Israel and Albania, that kind of level, but we want to go higher.

“To win away from home on Thursday would be fantastic as it would give the players real evidence of the improvements they’ve made, especially in a tough place like Israel.

Leigh Griffiths
Celtic’s Leigh Griffiths has decided not to be involved in Scotland’s latest game (Graham Stuart/PA)

Leigh Griffiths’ surprise decision to withdraw from the travelling party heading to the Middle East means Steven Naismith will again lead Scotland’s attack at the Sammy Ofer Stadium.

The controversy surrounding Griffiths’ absence will ensure the spotlight shines brightly on the Hearts man but the national team boss has backed him to handle the pressure.

He said: “It’s a really great challenge for him. I saw him at Ibrox at the weekend he was unlucky not to score in the first couple of minutes. I think Steven has come back to the squad with aplomb.

Steven Naismith
Alex McLeish is a big fan of Hearts striker Steven Naismith (Jeff Holmes/PA)

Another who might have played his way into contention is James Forrest after his four goal blitz against St Johnstone on Sunday. McLeish has favoured a 3-5-2 system since taking over from Gordon Strachan but admits he may have to rethink his game plan on the back of the Celtic wideman’s stunning display in Perth.

“I didn’t say he wouldn’t fit my system as he has played wing-back for Celtic – but I don’t think it’s his favourite position,” he explained.

“We have to adjust sometimes. We adjusted in the Hungary game and James could have had a hat-trick that night playing beside Matt Phillips.

“We can mix up the system. I’ve seen some dynamic performances this season. I’ve spoken about Ryan Fraser and I thank him for the commitment he made in coming up. It’s just unfortunate we didn’t get him fit. Forrest scored four at the weekend and he will be in big confidence.”

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