THERE will be no gentle bedding-in period for Stuart Armstrong if, as is being widely anticipated, the on-form Celtic midfielder makes his long overdue debut for Scotland this weekend.

Much will be demanded of the 24-year-old if he is named in the starting line-up for a Russia 2018 qualifier which his country needs to win in order to keep their slight hopes of reaching the World Cup finals next year alive.

The player will, despite his total lack of previous international experience, be called upon to provide a cutting edge up front in the Group F meeting with Slovenia at Hampden on Sunday.

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Only one of the five forwards in the 30-man national squad – Sheffield Wednesday striker Jordan Rhodes – started for their club sides at the weekend. It is far-from-ideal scenario ahead of such an important fixture.

What is more, none of the strikers who has been selected is exactly banging them in for fun either. Leigh Griffiths, who led the line in Scotland’s last game against England back in November, has been the most prolific of the quintet with 14 in all competitions. But he hasn’t started a game for Celtic this year.

Finding the net, though, hasn’t been a problem for Armstrong of late. He took his tally for the 2016/17 campaign to 12 when he scored with a glancing header in a 2-1 win over Dundee at Dens Park two days ago. He has, too, been on target three times in four games this month. That should, at long last, result in him getting the nod.

“He's playing really well at the moment,” said the Scotland manager before he took his first training session at the Oriam national performance centre outside Edinburgh yesterday.

“What you've got to look at is, if your strikers are not playing well, guys in there who have scored goals. Stuart has scored 12. Matt Ritchie has also scored 13.

“People will say: ‘You need to play two strikers’. But if the two strikers have only scored 12 goals between them and two midfielders who have 25 between them who do you want in the team?

“There’s more to it than just playing two strikers. It helps when you have midfielders who can score if you play with one main target man who’s not a striker.

“We have to see how many goals we can get in the team. How do we get in the team everyone who is feeling good about themselves? That’s a must. Sometimes they turn up here really down, and it’s very hard to raise your game when you are like that.”

Strachan is a long-term admirer of the former Scotland Under-21 internationalist and has called him into his senior squad on two occasions in the past, in 2013 and 2015.

The fact that Armstrong has taken time to settle at Celtic, where he was repeatedly played out of position by his former manager Ronny Deila, is to blame for his lack of recognition, not a failure on the part of the national manager to identify his potential.

“We had him in the squad when he was at Dundee United,” said Strachan. “He went to Celtic and it didn’t go as well as we would have liked. He played left side of a three and while he was in that role there wasn’t really any clamour for him to play from anywhere.

“He’s moved in to the position everyone thought was best for him - Tom Cairney’s the same - and their ability and running power has come on. Stuart has a real personality on the pitch now. The move has worked out amazingly for him. But he has had to take that opportunity and he’s grabbed it with both hands.

“I would have no qualms putting him in. A lot of them are the same. You look at some areas of the team, midfield, out wide, and think ‘wow, that’s strong’. We’ve got (James) Forrest, (Ryan) Fraser, (Robert) Snodgrass, (Matt) Ritchie, so we’re okay in these areas.”

Armstrong and his Celtic team mates Scott Brown, Forrest, Craig Gordon and Kieran Tierney are unlikely to be involved in the friendly against Canada at Easter Road tomorrow due to the fact that they played a competitive match on Sunday. Griffiths, though, looks set to play at some stage.

Strachan, though, feels the run-out has taken on increased significance for his side, languishing in second bottom spot in their section, due to the lack of game time many of his players have had in recent weeks. He will fine tune his preparations for the Slovenia game in his home city. Those involved can play their way into contention.

“The team has not been picked,” he said. “The core of it might be picked and I know how we're going to play, but there are still places to be filled. We want to play well and win the game. We want to see who’s touch and fitness is there. You know in football these days if the fitness is not there the touch goes.

“I have in mind what the shape is going to be,” he said. “I know how we're going to play. I know that they can play in two different shapes, so we have to be able to adapt. First of all, we have to go and impress on them what we can do. If it comes to the point where we need to defend, we have to be able to defend against two different shapes.”