SCOTLAND will be going into tonight’s do-or-die clash at Hampden in high spirits after Friday’s goalless draw at Wembley, and there is no doubt that Steve Clarke and his players will be confident of grabbing a win and giving themselves a chance of making it out the group.

All that stands in their way are Croatia, the runners-up at the most recent World Cup. That Zlatko Dalic’s men will be the favourites is unquestionable but the Tartan Army can take heart from their underwhelming performances at the Euros so far.

With so much on the line – Croatia also require a win to progress – we can expect a cagey affair at the national stadium. Here are three key battles that could decide where the game is won and lost.


READ MORE: Zlatko Dalic highlights Croatia fan 'disadvantage' and Covid concern ahead of Scotland clash

Stephen O’Donnell v Ivan Perisic

The Motherwell full-back came in for heavy criticism in the wake of the opening defeat to the Czech Republic – the 29-year-old was partly to blame for Patrik Schick’s first as he was too slow to close down the cross to the striker – but O’Donnell made amends with a superb display against the Auld Enemy in London.

That performance should be enough to keep Rangers right-back out of the squad and while O’Donnell did extremely well to keep the likes of Raheem Sterling and Jack Grealish quiet, he is facing another stern examination this evening.

Perisic has been a star performer for Croatia for years and is coming off the back of an impressive campaign for Inter where he played a key role as the Milan club clinched their first Scudetto in over a decade. At 32, the winger might have lost a few yards but he remains pacy, technical and has an eye for goal.


READ MORE: Steve Clarke: Scotland have followed Covid-19 protocols - you can't legislate for Billy Gilmour's positive test

Callum McGregor v Luka Modric

Celtic’s seemingly indefatigable midfielder didn’t make the cut for the 2-0 defeat to the Czechs but caught the eye at Wembley – and after Chelsea playmaker Billy Gilmour entered quarantine after returning a positive Covid test yesterday morning, it’s unthinkable that Clarke would drop a player who demands the ball so regularly.

McGregor’s dynamism could be a vital weapon in Scotland’s arsenal. Real Madrid midfielder Luka Modric requires little by way of introduction, and football fans across the globe are all too aware of the 35-year-old’s remarkable technical prowess. Keeping tight to Modric and squeezing him out of the game is easier said than done but if McGregor could pull off the trick, he would do Scotland’s chances of victory the world of good.


READ MORE: Ivan Perisic in 'real' Croatia vow ahead of make-or-break Scotland showdown

Andy Robertson v Sime Vrsaljko

No player at the Euros has averaged as many crosses per game than the Scotland captain, and no player has come close to attempting as many headers as Lyndon Dykes. One would hope that this combination will eventually provide a goal and it will be down to Vrsaljko to ensure that it doesn’t.

Robertson will, of course, be aided in no small part by the rampaging runs forward of ‘centre-back’ Kieran Tierney. Most of Scotland’s build-up play is focused in this area of the park and Clarke will be hoping that the Robertson-Tierney-McGregor axis proves effective once again.

In Vrsaljko, though, Robertson will be facing a seasoned operator. Currently plying his trade for Diego Simeone’s Atletico Madrid, the full-back is no stranger to the dark arts employed by the Argentinian coach. A knee injury kept the 29-year-old sidelined for much of the previous campaign and he has played just once for his club since February. Vrsaljko is a regular under Dalic but there’s no escaping the fact that he’s perhaps a little rusty, and Robertson will surely be hoping to take full advantage.