After losing to Poland in the final game of 2015, Czech Republic will want to start the new year with a win, although the match against Scotland will be no walk in the park. Gordon Strachan has named one squad each for games vs the Czechs and Denmark, with the stronger of the two sides set to play in Prague.
Czech Republic have been on a major downtrend over the last decade as their golden generation stepped off the stage, but the national team have been showing signs of improvement of late. Coach Pavel Vrba appears to have created a good blend of youth and experience, and the Czechs impressed to top their qualifying group, with Iceland, Turkey and Netherlands all trailing in their wake. Good performances in qualifiers will mean little if the team fail to prove their worth at the Euro 2016 finals, and they will have a pretty difficult job in an attempt to progress from their group, having been drawn alongside Spain, Croatia and Turkey. The national team coach will have a total of five friendlies to test some new players and decide on the 23-man squad, and the fact that several star players are out of the Scotland clash could prove a blessing in disguise. Czech Republic have done fairly well at home of late, winning four of last six fixtures, and they will be looking to extend the bright run on Thursday evening.
Star players Petr Cech, Tomas Rosicky, Jaroslav Plasil and David Pavelka have been left out of the squad for games vs Scotland and Sweden.
Mlada Boleslav midfielder Jakub Rada, Sparta Prague starlet Lukas Marecek and his teammate Jakub Brabec are the three uncapped footballers on the roster.
Despite putting in a brave fight, Scotland failed to make it to the Euro 2016 finals, but Gordon Strachan and his men can take plenty of positives from the previous qualifying campaign. The highly rated coach was given a chance to try and take the Scots to the 2018 World Cup and preparations for the new qualifying campaign start with the March friendlies against Czech Republic and Denmark. In an attempt to test as many players as possible, Strachan decided to nominate difference squads for the two matches, although there are some footballers that will be in contention to play both games. It will be the stronger side with more experienced players that will test their skills against Czech Republic, although the visitors could still struggle to match the in-form Czechs. Prior to the 6-0 triumph over minnows Gibraltar, Scotland failed to win five successive matches on the road, although they did manage to hold Poland and Ireland to 2-2 and 1-1 draws respectively.
Kenny McLean is the only one of five uncapped players in the squad that will be available for the match in Prague, with Celtic youngster Tony Watt also in contention.
Ross McCormack and Paul Caddis have been added to the squad after Steven Naismith and Steven Whittaker had both withdrawn.
Key Factors to Consider
- Czech Rep won four of six meetings with Scotland
- The Czechs won all three home games vs Scotland
- Czech Rep have four wins in last six home fixtures (D1 L1)
- Both teams have scored in five of those six games
- The victory over Gibraltar ended Scotland’s five-match winless run on the road
With the Czechs nearly at full strength and Scotland more concerned with trying out some new players than the outcome of the match, home win definitely seems on the cards. The home players are aware places in the Euro 2016 squad are up for grabs, and they are unlikely to see this as just another friendly game.
Verdict: Home win
Best Odds: 3/4
Bookmaker: William Hill