1 year ago

Scotland captain Fletcher faces late fitness test for Slovakia

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Lithuania's Vykintas Slivka tackles Scotland's Darren Fletcher

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    Scotland captain Darren Fletcher faces a late fitness test for the World Cup qualifier against Slovakia in Trnava.

    Manager Gordon Strachan has confirmed changes will be made even if the midfielder recovers from the thigh knock he picked up against Lithuania.

    Blackburn Rovers centre-half Gordon Greer had missed Saturday’s 1-1 draw at Hampden with a leg injury.

    Fenerbahce central defender Martin Skrtel is available again for hosts Slovakia following suspension.

    The former Liverpool 31-year-old, who sat out Saturday’s 1-0 defeat away to Slovenia after being sent off in their opening qualifying Group F defeat by England, could play despite having had surgery on a broken nose.

    Skrtel picked up the injury in his club’s Europa League game against Feyenoord but then played in last week’s Turkish top-flight meeting with Osmanlispor while wearing a protective face mask ahead of his operation.

    It had been thought that Fletcher, who came off at half-time for Scotland against Lithuania, would miss the game in Slovakia.

    Slovakia's Martin Skrtel (right) is surprised as he is sent off against England<!–<!–[if lte IE 8]><![endif]–>

    But the 32-year-old said that, although he sat out training on Monday, he is desperate to play and it is a case of “fingers crossed”.

    “If the manager wants me to play, I’ll be out there doing my best,” said Fletcher.

    Strachan revealed that he would prepare a team that includes his captain and another line-up should he fail to be passed fit.

    “I actually thought it was a thigh strain at half time, but it was a knock on his thigh,” he said.

    “There are going to be changes because we thought it was going to be a rough-and-tumble game with Lithuania, which it was. It was more like a Championship game. We did pick up a few knocks.”

    Barry Bannan and James McArthur, who scored Scotland’s equaliser after replacing Fletcher, are the others vying to fill the two midfield holding roles.

    Oliver Burke and Matt Ritchie are the men in possession on the wings, but James Forrest and Ikechi Anya are options there too.

    Robert Snodgrass is likely to continue in the advanced midfield role behind the lone striker despite not being able to reach the heights of a performance in Malta that led to a hat-trick in the Scots’ group-opening win.

    Up front, highly praised by Strachan but criticised by some fans and media, Chris Martin is under pressure from Leigh Griffiths and Steven Fletcher.

    With Alan Hutton having pulled out of the squad through injury ahead of the game against Lithuania, Callum Paterson is one player who appears assured of another start at right-back despite an unconvincing display by the 21-year-old against Lithuania.

    Russell Martin, who is the other right-back option, is likely to continue in central defence, but Grant Hanley is another whose performance has been under the spotlight as he looked rusty having lacked game time with Newcastle United this season.

    Scotland's Grant Hanley and Chris Martin show their disappointment against Lithuania<!–<!–[if lte IE 8]><![endif]–>

    Andrew Robertson must be favourite to continue at left-back, despite pressure from Kieran Tierney and Lee Wallace, after a much-praised display against Lithuania.

    Scotland coach Steven Pressley was in Slovenia to scout Slovakia and Strachan admitted that the report back about Jan Kozak’s side has altered his own thinking.

    Strachan said the Slovaks played 4-3-3 at Euro 2016, with two wide men, but had now altered their formation.

    “We had ideas for two months what we were going to do, but they have dramatically changed their system, so we’ve had to have a good rethink from Saturday night,” he said.

    Former Rangers winger Vladimir Weiss is among the players absent from the Slovakia squad, the Al-Gharafa 26-year-old having been dropped by coach Jan Kozak amid allegations that he was caught drink-driving.

    Zilina’s Viktor Pecovsky, fellow midfielder Ondrej Duda of Hertha Berlin, the latter’s club-mate and right-back Peter Pekarík, plus central defender Norbert Gyomber, who is on loan to Pescara from Roma, are all missing through injury.

    Meanwhile, Fenerbahce winger Miroslav Stoch was also left out for disciplinary reasons.

    Squads for Trnava


    Goalkeepers: Matus Kozacik (Viktoria Plzen), Jan Novota (Rapid Wein), Martin Dubravka (Slovan Liberec).

    Defenders: Martin Skrtel (Fenerbahce), Jan Durica (Trabzonspor), Tomas Hubocan (Marseille), Kornel Salata (Slovan Bratislava), Milan Skriniar (Sampdoria), Lukas pauschek (Mlada Boleslav), Lukas Stetina (Dukla Prague), Jakub Holubek (Zilina).

    Midfielders: Marek Hamsik (Napoli), Juraj Kucka (AC Milan), Dusan Svento (Slavia Prague), Robert Mak (Zenit Saint Petersburg), Patrik Hrosovsky (Viktoria Plzen), Jan Gregus (Copenhagen), Filip Kiss (Haugesund), Erik Sabo (Beitar Jerusalem), Jakub Povazanec (Dukla Prague).

    Forwards: Michal Duris (Viktoria Plzen), Adam Nemec (Dinamo Bucuresti), Marek Bakos (Viktoria Plzen).


    Goalkeepers: Craig Gordon (Celtic), Jack Hamilton (Heart of Midlothian), David Marshall (Hull City).

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

    Midfielders: Ikechi Anya (Derby County), Barry Bannan (Sheffield Wednesday), Oliver Burke (Leipzig), Darren Fletcher (West Bromwich Albion), James Forrest (Celtic), James McArthur (Crystal Palace), John McGinn (Hibernian), 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).

    Source: BBC Football Read Original Article: Scotland captain Fletcher faces late fitness test for Slovakia

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