STEVE CLARKE said last week that he welcomes the sleepless nights that come with trying to pick his starting XI for Scotland’s European Championships opener against the Czech Republic on Monday, and there are sure to be some issues that will keep him tossing and turning into the weekend.

Here, we take a look at the five key selection dilemmas facing the manager of the national side as he looks to get the country off to a flyer at Hampden…

David Marshall vs Craig Gordon

The debate over who should start in goal for Scotland between these two and Rangers keeper Allan McGregor has been ongoing for over a decade, and even with the Ibrox stopper now retired, the Tartan Army are split on who should take the gloves for the opening game.

Not that any supporter would be particularly upset should their preferred goalie not be given the nod, given how little there is between two quality options. Despite their advancing years, both Marshall and Gordon are still at the top of their games.

It could be argued that Gordon had the more consistent season overall with Hearts as they won the Scottish Championship, while a mixture of injury and sporadic dips in form led to Marshall being displaced on a couple of occasions by Kelle Roos with English Championship strugglers Derby County.

Both men were given 90 minutes each in the two warm-up matches for the tournament, though Marshall was left behind in Alicante as a precaution for the Netherlands match following John Fleck’s positive Covid-19 test.

In the end, with so little to separate the pair, it could come down to loyalty, and Clarke will likely plump for Marshall after his heroics in Serbia.

Stephen O’Donnell vs Nathan Patterson

This is a choice between the solid, dependable experience of O’Donnell and the youthful, exciting exuberance of Patterson, and given the magnitude of the game, it would appear likely that Clarke will go for the former.

That being said, there is more than a hint that the Czechs may well be vulnerable defensively given personnel issues in their backline, allowing Scotland to be more adventurous. If Clarke believes the game is a must-win, might he be tempted to throw the dice by including the more attack-minded Rangers youngster?

Probably not. Motherwell full-back O’Donnell has proven himself to be a steady performer at international level, compensating for what he lacks in flash in an attacking sense with plenty of substance defensively.

Patterson looked good when he came on against Luxembourg when in possession, but even with 10 men, the hosts got in behind him once or twice as his enthusiasm occasionally got the better of him on his debut.

Patterson may well have an important part to play for Scotland in the tournament, but O’Donnell has earned the right to walk out at Hampden on Monday.

Jack Hendry vs Grant Hanley

There was a time not so long ago that this decision would have been something of a Sophie’s Choice, but both of these much-maligned defenders come into this tournament in fine fettle after the best seasons of their respective careers.

Celtic outcast Hendry has revitalised himself on loan at Belgian side Oostende, while Hanley was outstanding as he captained Norwich City to the Championship title and a return to the Premier League.

Both will be in contention to start on the right of the back three, with Kieran Tierney locked in on the left side and Clarke likely to lean for Declan Gallagher over Liam Cooper in the centre.

That leaves the one spot for either Hendry or Hanley to grasp, with both having solid enough showings in the friendlies over the last week.

Hendry took the headlines for his wonderful finish that opened the scoring against the Netherlands, but perhaps it would have been his role in the Dutch equaliser that caught the eye of Clarke most, as he failed to get tight to Gini Wijnaldum and allowed him an easy knockdown to Memphis Depay to finish.

Hendry may be the better footballer, but Hanley is the better defender, and that is why he will get the nod.

Callum McGregor vs Billy Gilmour

That there is a clamour for Billy Gilmour to be thrown into the Czech Republic game for his first Scotland start on the back of a 28-minute cameo against Luxembourg tells you everything you need to know about this extraordinary talent.

The Chelsea youngster stood out like a sore thumb with his touch, vision and in the way he glided past opponents, before a clattering from Sebastien Thill saw him removed from the action as a precaution.

On the other hand, McGregor has flown under the radar somewhat coming into the tournament, with quietly effective competence rather than eye-catching brilliance the hallmark of his last two Scotland performances.

Again, this debate comes down to experience versus youthful exuberance, but even though McGregor himself would concede he wasn’t at his best during Celtic’s catastrophic collective campaign, there is no doubting the quality he possesses and the composure he brings to the midfield.

Scott McTominay is a stick-on to fill one of the holding midfield roles, and I would wager that McGregor’s 30 caps versus Gilmour’s two – totalling around 40 minutes – will tilt the scales in his favour.

Stuart Armstrong vs Ryan Christie

The question of loyalty to the players who made the greatest contribution to getting Scotland to the Euros is one that will no doubt play a part in these selections. But while Christie’s goal and tearful interview in Serbia has won him a place in the hearts of the Tartan Army forever, it may not be enough to win him a place in the starting XI against the Czech Republic.

The contrasting form of these players at club level from the turn of the year on could hardly be starker, with Armstrong riding the crest of a wave off the back of a stellar season with Southampton, and Christie out of sorts after his confidence took a tanking during a below-par season at Celtic.

The match against the Netherlands was a case in point, with Armstrong carrying the ball with purpose and taking the fight to the Dutch defence, while Christie struggled to make any sort of impact on the game.

A lot will depend of course on whether Clarke opts to play a top two of Che Adams and Lyndon Dykes, but if not, Armstrong looks to be the one who would be tasked with joining in the attack from midfield along with John McGinn.