Republic of Ireland v Scotland: Steve Clarke expects backlash from struggling hosts
|Venue: Aviva Stadium, Dublin Date: Saturday, 11 June Kick-off: 17:00 BST|
|Coverage: Listen on BBC Radio Scotland, live text commentary on the BBC Sport website & app, watch highlights on Sportscene|
Scotland boss Steve Clarke is wary of a Republic of Ireland backlash on Saturday, while counterpart Stephen Kenny does not feel under pressure despite a winless Nations League start.
The Republic’s 1-0 defeats away to Armenia and at home to Ukraine leave Kenny with just two wins from 17 competitive games in charge.
Scotland recovered from their World Cup play-off loss to Ukraine by beating Armenia 2-0 at home in their opener.
Clarke says a “tough challenge” awaits.
He continued: “Anyone going to Dublin to play can expect a tough game.
“Obviously their last two games have gone against them – but only by one goal. Previous to that, they had an eight-game unbeaten run and within that was Portugal and Belgium.
“They probably started the group with high expectations. It hasn’t worked out for them so far. They will be looking at the home game against Scotland and hoping to get a foothold in the group to make the games in September meaningful for them.”
The Republic’s Dublin defeat to an under-strength Ukraine on Wednesday leaves them without a win in 12 Nations League matches.
Kenny remains defiant, though, and believes rediscovering a ruthless edge can get them off the mark in the group at the third time of asking.
“No, I don’t feel pressure, only internal, disappointed that we’ve not got points on the board and professional pride,” he said.
“We had a good run where from March to March we scored 23 goals, which is a really high amount for an international team.
“Then, in the last two games, we have come up short in front of goal. It doesn’t mean everything is wrong, it just means we haven’t capitalised on the opportunities.
“We have to improve in that regard and make sure we all work hard and believe in what we are doing and hit the back of the net.”
The Republic are dogged by defensive issues with captain Seamus Coleman having left the squad and returned to Everton due to a groin problem that kept him out of the Ukraine game, while Sheffield United’s John Egan, who was in line to deputise as skipper, damaged an ankle in that defeat and also misses out.
Bristol City’s Max O’Leary has been called up after Bohemians’ James Talbot suffered an injury in training on Friday, while Kenny says “one or two players” also face late fitness tests.
Scotland have drafted uncapped Rangers goalkeeper Robby McCrorie into their squad as St Johnstone’s Zander Clark and Leeds United centre-back Liam Cooper both drop out to marry their partners.
Clarke had already lost new Hibernian goalkeeper David Marshall after the 37-year-old decided to retire from international football.
- This will be the first meeting between Republic of Ireland and Scotland since June 2015 at the Aviva Stadium in a Euro 2016 qualifier – the game ended 1-1, with Jon Walters netting for the hosts and Scotland later equalising through a John O’Shea own goal.
- Scotland are unbeaten in their last four away games against Republic of Ireland in all competitions, although three of those meetings ended level. Scotland’s last away defeat to Ireland came back in June 1963, losing 1-0 courtesy of a goal from Noel Cantwell.
- Republic of Ireland have picked up just one win from their last 13 games against nations from the United Kingdom, losing five, winning 1-0 against Wales in a World Cup qualifier in October 2017. They’ve failed to score in their last five such games.
- Republic of Ireland have never won a Nations League game, losing seven, netting just two goals in their 12 games in the competition.
- Scotland have lost just one of their last 10 games in all competitions, going down 3-1 at home to Ukraine earlier this month, and winning seven.
- Scotland are looking to win four consecutive competitive away games for the first time since a run of seven between 1948 and 1952.
- Republic of Ireland are winless in their last 10 competitive home games, drawing seven, with no side scoring more than once in a single match in that time. They lost 1-0 against Ukraine last time out but haven’t lost consecutive competitive home games since October 1972 (a run of three).
- Scotland have won 64% of their 11 games in the Nations League, with all three of their defeats in the competition coming away from home.
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