After two consecutive defeats put them in an unenviable position, Scotland must overcome a strong Poland side if they are to retain any realistic hopes of reaching the Euro 2016 play-offs.
They must also rely on the Republic of Ireland failing to beat world champions and Group D leaders Germany at the Aviva Stadium. Four points currently separate the sides after Scotland just fell short against Joachim Low’s side last time out despite a spirited display which saw them show all the fight that was missing in the potentially punishing defeat in Georgia just days earlier.
However, should results go the way of Scotland on Thursday, it would make them favourites as they travel to whipping boys Gibraltar on Sunday where a win is surely inevitable, while the Irish have to go to Warsaw needing to take three points.
Missing out on another major tournament is an almost unbearable thought, as the Tartan Army have not managed to qualify for one since the 1998 World Cup. That is especially because it would extinguish all the optimism that existed at the start of the campaign where the consensus seemed to be that Gordon Strachan was the man to end their barren run and take full advantage of the competition’s expansion to 24 teams.
This is also a massively important game for Poland, who will qualify here if they win and Ireland fail to beat Germany. It would a fine achievement for a side that missed out on the 2014 World Cup, and they have since regrouped to look like a real force on the European stage.
Key to Scotland’s chances at Hampden Park is how they go about dealing with the threat of Robert Lewandowski, who has reinforced his status as one of the world’s very best strikers of late with a sensational burst of goalscoring, finding the net 12 times in his last four games for Bayern Munich, including five in the space of nine minutes against Wolfsburg. Grant Hanley will be relied upon to produce a top performance in what is one of the most important games of his career so far.
Three key players are out for Scotland, with regular starter James Morrison, winger Ikechi Anya and versatile defender Charlie Mulgrew all on the sidelines.
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