WE’RE now less than two weeks away from Scotland’s opening game at Euro 2020 and I suspect Steve Clarke will know the side he would like to send out against the Czech Republic at Hampden.

Nothing is ever set in stone, of course, and the news yesterday about John Fleck’s positive Covid test again shows that things can crop up at any time to alter a manager’s plans.

I suspect Steve will name a strong line-up for tonight’s friendly against the Dutch in Portugal rather than experimenting too much.

They’ve had almost a week together over in Spain now, he’ll have seen them perform in training and now it’s time to see how they click together in a match situation against strong opposition, albeit in a friendly.

It might not be the exact same team that he will start against the Czechs on June 14 but I suspect the vast majority of those who will feature at Hampden will get a run-out tonight.

And then against Luxembourg on Sunday we might see the rest getting a chance to impress so that as many of the squad as possible have minutes in the legs before the action starts for real.

Steve is a manager who likes to keep his cards as close to his chest as possible so it’s impossible to state with any certainty just how his teams will line up.
At different times he’s switched from a back three to a four, while he’s also experimented with two up front as well as with a lone striker.

The Czech game will be one Steve and his staff will have targeted as winnable and I don’t see any merit in resting players for the second game against England.

There may be some who have caught the eye in training or who go on to play so well either tonight or at the weekend that they make a late case for inclusion.

But I think at this point there are maybe six or seven players who look almost nailed on to start against the Czechs. And there are a few other players and positions where it is harder to say for sure just what the manager might do.

I believe he’ll start with David Marshall in goal. Steve tends to show loyalty to players who have served him well in the past and David will likely get the nod for his heroics in Serbia that helped get us here.

If it were me picking the team then I’d have Craig Gordon in goals. He’s again shown over the past season with Hearts what a good ‘keeper he is and I would have no qualms sticking him in at Hampden. But I suspect he’ll go with Marsh.

If Steve goes with a back three which is what I’m leaning towards, then it provides you with the simplest solution of how to fit in both Kieran Tierney and Andy Robertson as I think you have to do.

That allows you to play Tierney as the left centre back but with licence to get forward and Robertson on the left of a four-man midfield.

In the centre of the defence I suspect he’ll plump for Grant Hanley over Declan Gallagher leaving a space available for the right-sided centre back.

This one isn’t as easy to solve. I know guys like Liam Cooper have offered to play on the “wrong” side but I’m not a huge fan of having lefties playing on the right as it means they are forever coming back inside and it affects the team’s ability to build from the back.

Other options include Jack Hendry, Scott McKenna and Gallagher and it’s hard to know just what Steve might be minded to do.

I expect unless Nathan Patterson has blown him away in training that Steve will go with Stephen O’Donnell at right wing-back.

Inside him will likely be Scott McTominay who we need in midfield now with Ryan Jack missing due to injury and probably Callum McGregor alongside him.

When it comes to how he deploys the three attacking players, there are a number of different permutations.

If he goes with two up front then you’d suspect it would be Che Adams and Lyndon Dykes, with John McGinn sitting just behind them.

If it’s just one up front then it’s which one of Dykes or Adams does he go with. And that would mean McGinn and one of either Ryan Christie or Stuart Armstrong tucked in behind to offer support.

In either system, you’re then looking for Robertson and O’Donnell to get up and down the flanks.

I don’t think we can take too many clues from the squad numbers being published – I know that from experience!

When you’re trying to keep the opposition guessing it surely won’t be as straightforward as playing numbers one to 11. Unless it’s a double bluff !

So,while many of the places have been settled for a while now, it still leaves maybe three or four slots up for grabs.

This is where, as a manager, you want to see players absolutely bursting a gut to show they want to be involved and how much it would mean to them.

Scotland don’t qualify for major tournaments too often and, with three really tough games coming  up, we need everyone fully committed to the cause if it’s to be a successful return to the big stage.