Scotland’s preparations for key Ukraine match hit after virus disrupts team


Scotland’s disrupted preparations for their crucial Nations League meeting with Ukraine on Tuesday have been further hindered by the emergence of a virus within Steve Clarke’s squad.

Scotland need a draw in Krakow to secure promotion to Group A but any such outcome must be achieved the hard way. Andy Robertson’s injury means he has played no part in this international window. Kieran Tierney and Scott McKenna, starters in the win against the Republic of Ireland on Saturday, have returned to their clubs.

Scott McTominay’s booking against the Irish earned him a suspension. And it has now emerged that Greg Taylor, Lyndon Dykes, Che Adams, Stuart Armstrong and members of the Scotland backroom staff have been hit by a bug.

“It has been different,” a typically understated Clarke said. “I was totting up the injuries the other day and from my expanded pool of players, I’m missing something like 16. That’s quite a lot.

“As always in this kind of situation, you tend to find it’s the one position that’s targeted. It’s one very general position and that’s in defence. We’ve lost a lot of defenders and a few forwards as well. But in this situation I always say it’s not about the ones who have dropped out, it’s about the ones who are here and can step in. It’s a great chance for them to show everybody what they’re all about.”

Clarke revealed Ryan Fraser had been sick in the buildup to the game on Saturday. “We’ve obviously got to manage and monitor the situation,” the manager said. “If it goes the same way as it did for Ryan it’s less than 24 hours and then they’re OK again. So fingers crossed nobody else picks it up.

“Che Adams and Greg Taylor felt under the weather but they wanted to train. They came outside this morning but Lyndon and Stuart didn’t feel as though training was the best thing to do. But they’ll all travel.”

Better news for Clarke comes in the form of Aaron Hickey, who has returned to training despite a tight hamstring during the Ireland match. The Brentford full‑back is likely to play a key role against Ukraine’s highly rated winger Mykhaylo Mudryk. Everton and Brentford are among clubs keen to coax Mudryk from Shakhtar Donetsk.

Progress under Clarke has put Scotland on the cusp of a berth in pot two in the upcoming Euro 2024 draw. “I’ve been very consistent in my message that we want to keep improving,” Clarke said. “I was very honest over the summer when I said I thought we’d stalled.

“It was nice to get into this camp. I reset the staff at the start of the week, along with the players, and we’ve had a good response to that. We want to finish the week on a high by getting the right result. I want to keep moving forward. Even if it goes well and we get to pot two, I don’t want to stop there. That can’t be the limit of our aspirations. We have to strive to be better all the time.”

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Marta Lopez

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