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Preview: Gibraltar vs. Scotland

Sports Mole checks on the preparations of both sides ahead of Sunday's Group D clash between Gibraltar and Scotland.

Scotland will head into the final game of Euro 2016 qualifying against Gibraltar knowing that their dream of reaching the tournament is over.

Gibraltar are still aiming to collect their first point in Group D as they prepare to meet a side trying to finish an ultimately frustrating campaign on a high.


Gibraltar

Brian Perez of Gibraltar is marshalled by James McClean of Republic of Ireland during the EURO 2016 Qualifier match on October 11, 2014© Getty Images

It was a familiar feeling for Gibraltar on Wednesday night as they slipped to yet another emphatic loss in the penultimate fixture of their first qualifying campaign as an official member of FIFA.

Much like their previous performances in Group D, there was plenty of determination and stubbornness displayed by a team made up of mainly part-timers, but they were unable to avoid a 4-0 loss to Georgia.

Ten successive defeats were certainly expected for Jeff Wood and his players, but there will be an eagerness to end the campaign on a high when they take on a Scotland side still hurting from their disappointment in midweek.

The signs are not good for the hosts, however, as they head into the game still waiting to score a first home goal, and a goal difference of -48 suggests that any kind of upset is still unlikely.

In truth, this campaign has been a learning process for the smallest nation in the competition, and although a positive result may still be far away, Wood will be desperate for his side to be resilient at the back as they look to offer signs that they could be a potential banana skin in the future.

Recent form: LLLLLL


Scotland

Steven Fletcher of Scotland celebrates scoring their second goal during the UEFA EURO 2016 qualifier between Scotland and Poland at Hampden Park on October 08, 2015 in Glasgow, Scotland.© Getty Images

Many followers of Gordon Strachan's side would have booked their tickets for the trip to Gibraltar's second home in the Algarve full of optimism a while back, but they will travel with a frustrated feeling after being dealt a cruel blow in their bid to reach next summer's tournament.

After hitting back with goals from Matt Ritchie and Steven Fletcher against Poland, it looked like Scotland would be in with a shout heading into the final game before Robert Lewandowski struck for the second time at Hampden Park to earn a 2-2 draw for the visitors.

The result left the Tartan Army in fourth place, six points behind both Poland and Republic of Ireland as their hopes of a playoff spot were dashed in stoppage time, but fans and players will look further back for the reason behind their disappointment.

A 1-0 loss to Georgia last month was surely the most damaging result, and despite their brave performance against Poland on Thursday, Scotland will have to watch on with all four of the other home nations in contention to be involved in the tournament.

As always, the support will be impressive from the travelling fans but the focus may soon turn to the future of Strachan, who appears to have won the backing of many but still has a point to prove after coming up short in qualifying.

Plans will now begin to be put in place for World Cup 2018 qualifying, and Strachan will be hopeful of leading the side once again as he aims to sign off in Group D with an emphatic win against the minnows.

Recent form: WWDLLD
Recent form (all competitions): WWDLLD


Team News

Matt Ritchie of Scotland celebrates with Steven Fletcher of Scotland after he scores during the UEFA EURO 2016 qualifier between Scotland and Poland at Hampden Park on October 08, 2015 in Glasgow, Scotland.© Getty Images

Strachan is likely to make a number of changes as he considers offering opportunities to a number of players on the fringes of the side, which means that the likes of Jordan Rhodes, Graham Dorrans and Christophe Berra are in contention to start.

There should be starts for a number of regulars, though, with Ritchie and captain Scott Brown among the players set to retain their places in the starting lineup.

Gibraltar boss Wood could hand a start to Brian Perez, who came off the bench to replace George Cabrera at half time against Georgia, and that move is likely to see Lee Casciaro given the opportunity to lead the line for the hosts.

Gibraltar possible starting lineup:
J Perez, J Chipolina, R Casciaro, R Chipolina, Garcia, K Casciaro, Walker, Gosling, Perez, Bardon, L Casciaro,

Scotland possible starting lineup:
Marshall, Hutton, Martin, Berra, Robertson, Brown, McArthur, Dorrans, Ritchie, Maloney, Fletcher


Head To Head

Casciaro scored Gibraltar's first competitive goal when these two sides met for the first time at Hampden Park in March, and although that may have been the feel-good story of the afternoon, it was a comfortable 6-1 triumph for Scotland.

Scotland are without a win in four qualifying games since Fletcher's hat-trick led them to victory in the reverse fixture.


Sports Mole Logo

We say: Gibraltar 0-5 Scotland

Strachan should make a number of changes as his frustrated side aim to turn their anger into an emphatic win, and they will surely have more than enough to cruise to a comfortable victory against the Group D whipping boys. Gibraltar are likely to make it tough early on, but Scotland should grow as the game progresses to meet expectations.



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Russell Martin of Scotland is challenged by Robert Lewandowski of Poland during the EURO 2016 Qualifier between Scotland and Poland at Hamden Park on October 8, 2015 in Glasgow, Scotland.
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