Craig Levein last night insisted he did not feel under extra pressure to deliver a win in tonight's crucial World Cup qualifier against Wales, and refused to agree that a victory was vital.
Dropping four points from the first available six has knocked Scotland off the pace at the start of the Group A campaign – Serbia, Croatia and Belgium are all two points ahead already in the attempt to qualify for Brazil 2014 – and both the qualification hopes and Levein's survival as manager could be decided by the results in Cardiff tonight and Belgium on Tuesday.
The return of Steven Fletcher, Darren Fletcher and Scott Brown has emboldened Levein, though, and he now seems certain to start with the Sunderland striker as the lone frontman in a 4-1-4-1.
Scotland arrived at the Celtic Manor resort, their base until Monday, at tea-time last night but opted not to visit the City Stadium where tonight's game will be held. The match is enormously significant for Levein, but he claimed to be calm. "I don't feel under any additional pressure. Every manager is under pressure to get results and try and qualify. That's part of the job. As much as the pressure increases when every competitive match comes around, the reason I took the job is to be involved in these situations. I'm not any more up or down than I have been for recent games."
When asked if a win was more vital after the draws with Serbia and Macedonia last month, he replied: "Not in my eyes it isn't. It's another one which has three points attached to it. We will treat this game as we have treated every other one. Me getting excited or worried is counter-productive. There is no point in me going into the players and saying 'we need to win this game.' What kind of psychology is that?
"I also think it's hugely counter-productive for me to talk about 'what ifs' because I don't think that does any good. I know it's a question you've got to ask me but I don't think it does me any good to talk about that. I'm interested in what the players are thinking. The last thing I want to do is talk about: 'what ifs'."
Steven Fletcher will play for Scotland for the first time since a friendly in Sweden in August 2010, and Darren Fletcher for the first time since a friendly in Cyprus last November. Brown, meanwhile, missed last month's double-header because of his hip problem. Levein said: "Fletch and Broony are not just high-quality players but they also understand the position and the nature of big games. Having Steven Fletcher back is also great. He has trained excellently this week. They have all added quality but they have also added an edge."
Defender Andy Webster is a doubt after rolling an ankle in training yesterday morning while winger James Forrest has a slight knock but should be fine.
wales v scotland Levein refuses to consider victory in Cardiff a necessity