STEVE Clarke has challenged his Scotland players to produce a flawless performance against Belgium at Hampden this evening and resurrect their fading hopes of qualifying automatically for the Euro 2020 finals.

The national team are six points behind second-placed Russia in Group I at the halfway stage in their campaign following a bitterly disappointing 2-1 defeat at home to Stanislav Cherchesov’s side on Friday night.

But Clarke, who is set to make changes to his starting line-up for the meeting with the leading country in the FIFA World Rankings, has steadfastly refused to write off their chances to finishing in the top two in their section and going through.

He is adamant Scotland can get a result against Belgium – who beat them 4-0 in a friendly at Hampden last September and 3-0 in a qualifier in Brussels back in June - but has told his charges their display must be perfect.

Asked if he thought his team could keep a clean sheet against their star-studded rivals, Clarke said: “Yes, if we defend well and everyone plays at their best. Listen, as a team you are going to have to play a game with almost no mistakes because the top players and the top teams punish you if you make a mistake. So can we play a game with no mistakes?

“The last time against Belgium we were defensively solid but we didn’t really have enough threat going the other way. You have to find that balance to let the opposition know ‘if we switch off here this team could hurt us’. That’s what we have to find.

“Maybe it’s a good fixture for us because I don’t think there’s any expectation. I don’t think anyone expects anything, If we are being honest, there’s not too many people in the country that are saying Scotland will get something out of this game. So maybe it’s a good fixture for us rather than a Cyprus away where you are thinking ‘we’ve got to go there and win,’.

“It may be a decent fixture for us. The players are disappointed and they want to show everybody what they are showing me on the training pitch. They want to show everybody they are a good group of players and that they are going to be the players who qualify this country for a major tournament. So hopefully we get a response.”

Clarke is likely to start both Ryan Christie and Kenny McLean, who both performed well after coming on in the second-half against Russia, against Belgium and make other changes to the Scotland side that takes to the field.

“I did that in June as well,” he said. “With such a short space between the games you are always going to get one or two little knocks and one or two boys who are a little bit tired.

“I think I made five changes in Brussels. Two of them were enforced because Andy Robertson was out and Ryan Fraser didn’t think he could play 90 minutes. It maybe a similar situation tomorrow, maybe a little bit less.”

Clarke confirmed that Rangers midfielder Ryan Jack had returned to the Ibrox club due to a knee problem and Steven Naismith of Hearts would not be considered for selection.

“Naismith is close, I could push him, but I wouldn’t do it to him,” he said. “I could sit him on the bench, but I don’t think I would use him from the bench. I don’t think it’s worth the risk.”

Belgium will be without Eden and Thorgan Hazard,Vicent Kompany and Axel Witsel, but Clarke knows his opposite number Roberto Martinez has an embarrassment of riches at his disposal.

“They aren’t short of options are they?” he said. “They are missing a few, they are missing the Hazard brothers, Witsel is out and Kompany isn’t there, but in (Jason) Denayer, (Yannick) Carrasco, (Nacer) Chadli, (Dries) Mertens, (Youri) Tielemans they have some decent players to come in in their place.”

Clarke, though, has urged his players to relish the opportunity to pit themselves against some of the best footballers in the world and believe they are capable of pulling off an upset.

He said “They have got a decent squad, are in a good place and are the number one team in the world for a reason. It is a good challenge so let’s relish it and not worry about getting a hiding.”

“I am the manager and I have to believe in my players and I have to believe in my team. I believe we will click. I believe we will be good tomorrow night. The boys are really disappointed and hopefully you see a good reaction in this game.”

Asked about the apparent absence of an on-field leader like Scott Brown in his Scotland side, Clarke responded: “Scott has been a great servant for Scotland, but he’s not available now.

"So you are hoping that somewhere along the line someone who is in or around the squad will take up that mantle.

“Whether that happens or not we will have to see over the next few games. This is what I’m trying to do - to try to find the right balance and the right mixture."