Verdict: Away win
Best Odds: 4/5
Out-of-sorts Lithuania will be eager to try and put an end to a three-match losing run when they take on Scotland, a team that still harbour qualifying hopes despite sitting four points behind second-placed Slovakia. Gordon Strachan’s men will be under pressure as another setback could effectively end their bid to reach the World Cup finals.
Having gained independence from Russia, Lithuania’s first qualifying campaign was that for the 1994 World Cup, when they finished fifth of seven teams, and this eventually proved to be a sign of things to come. Fast forward 23 years and the national team have yet to qualify for a major international competition, with two third-place finishes in the qualifying groups their best results yet. The team’s results have been so poor of late that the national team chiefs decided to appoint former player Edgaras Jankauskas as the new head coach in spite of the obvious lack of experience, and he has so far failed to prove the doubters wrong. Lithuania did well to hold Slovenia and Scotland to draws in their opening two fixtures, while also defeating minnows Malta at home, but they have since been utterly disappointing. While suffering a 3-0 friendly loss to Czech Republic, Lithuania were beaten by Slovakia twice and England, slipping to fifth in the Group F standings. The players are clearly low on confidence after four straight defeats, so they now face an uphill task against hungry Scotland.
The likes of Arunas Klimavicius, Deividas Cesnauskis and Vytautas Andriuskevicius have all been overlooked, but Hibernian duo Vykintas Slivka and Deivydas Matulevicius are included.
It is fair to say that Scotland have made a great deal of progress under Gordon Strachan, but, as things stand now, they could miss out on yet another major tournament. The Tartan Army did not exactly impress in the 2018 World Cup qualifiers, especially after the opening win over Malta, as home draw against Lithuania and 3-0 defeats to Slovakia and England seriously damaged their qualifying hopes. Scotland, however, showed improvement to beat Slovenia in March and then produced an amazing comeback at home to England thanks to two late free-kick goals from Leigh Griffiths, only to concede a last-gasp goal that left them on eight points instead of ten. Sitting four points behind second-placed Slovakia, Scotland will probably have to win all the remaining games if they are to make it to the play-offs, but does not seem a mission impossible. The Lithuania game is expected to provide a much needed boost for the remainder of the campaign and we believe Gordon Strachan’s charges stand a decent chance of winning in Vilnius.
Tom Cariney and Steven Fletcher were forced to withdraw, and James Morrison was eventually called as a replacement. Andrew Robertson has returned to the camp after becoming a father.
Key Factors to Consider
- Lithuania lost last four fixtures, conceding 11 goals
- They scored just one goal in the process
- Scotland won five of eight meetings with Lithuania (D3)
- The Tartan Army kept six clean sheet in those games
- Scotland won three of last five away games in WC qualifiers
Lithuania have struggled to match the top sides in Group F and despite holding Scotland to a 1-1 draw last October, we don’t think they can do the same at home. Gordon Strachan’s side have been showing improvement of late and we are backing them to win in Vilnius.
Verdict: Away win
Best Odds: 4/5
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