With the mounting uncertainties surrounding European football due to Covid-19, both sides will be grateful that they can kick on with their UEFA European Championship qualification campaigns. This international break comes quite soon after their last matches that took place in September.
This game will be the first of two ties for Scotland during the break, as they play San Marino, away from home, after they host the Czech Republic at Tynecastle.
Scot Gemmill said that he was "glad to have international football, so soon after the Lithuania game". Gemmill will be looking to build momentum from September’s win in Vilnius, where Scotland ran out 1-0 victors after a 81st-minute winner from Motherwell midfielder, Allan Campbell.
Gemmill will be glad to have the combative midfielder back in his squad for the upcoming tie with the Czech Republic, as the midfielder has chalked up two goals in his last eight for Motherwell, which is a great return considering he scored five in thirty matches for Motherwell last season.
Goals have been in somewhat short supply during the campaign with only five goals in the six games that have been played. It could be up to the likes of Campbell getting on the scoresheet, for Scotland to come away with a vital three points.
At the other end of the spectrum, Scotland have been robust in defence only conceding only two in six matches. This could be down to players in key defensive areas like Ryan Porteous in central defence and team captain Ross McCrorie, shoring up the midfield, gaining more experience as key members for their clubs and bringing that to their international game.
In announcing his squad, Gemmill has added Barry Maguire (Motherwell) and Patrick Reading (Ayr United) as well as a newcomer to this level - 18-year-old Harrison Ashby, who has featured in West Ham United’s Carabao Cup campaign this season and could be in the running to make his debut at under-21 level.
Ashby plays as a full back and has picked up caps at under-17 and under-19 level for Scotland. The defender featured in all but one game of the under-19 European Championships qualifying campaign, with the biggest highlight being a clean sheet in a 1-0 victory over Germany. It is unclear if Ashby will get a starting spot for Scotland on Friday but the promising defender seems to be making significant waves on the international stage for Scotland.
In the competition, the Czech Republic are yet to lose and have picked up seventeen goals in the seven games that they have played. They also top the statistical charts for the most attempts on goal in the whole competition, beating the likes of France and the Netherlands.
Their coach, Karel Krejci, will be irritated at the number of draws his side have recorded in the competition, jeopardising their lead in the group, despite their attacking displays. Scotland are one of the sides to have silenced Krejci’s free-scoring Czechs in the campaign, with neither side being able to break the deadlock in the reverse tie, that was played back in October 2019.
The main threat in the Czech side would be the 21-year-old central midfielder, Ladislav Krejci (Sparta Prague) who has picked up five goals in the last seven qualifying games. Despite being considered a defensive midfielder who can double up as a central defender, Krejci has picked up two braces in the competition, albeit against San Marino home and away, but has picked up two in five games for his club side, Sparta Prague, showing himself to be more than just a player getting in on the action against lesser opposition.
As it stands, Scotland are currently third in the group with the potential to top the group by the end of the two qualifying games during this international break. Their opponents, the Czech Republic are currently first.
However, Greece, in second, have a game with Lithuania which could see them leapfrog the Czechs to top the group. Scotland are in a position that the goings on elsewhere, doesn’t really affect them as much. They need to get maximum points from the next two games to stand a chance of qualifying from this group.
Scotland U21 Squad announced:
Lewis Fiorini (NAC Breda)+++
Logan Chalmers (Dundee United)
PJ Morrison (Motherwell)
Ross Doohan (Ross County)++
Kieran Wright (Partick Thistle)+
Harrison Ashby (West Ham United)
Daniel Harvie (MK Dons)
Ross McCrorie (Aberdeen)+
Barry Maguire (Motherwell)
Lewis Mayo (Rangers)
Tom McIntyre (Reading)
Nathan Patterson (Rangers)
George Johnston (Feyenoord)
Patrick Reading (Ayr United)
Allan Campbell (Motherwell)
Lewis Ferguson (Aberdeen)
Stephen Kelly (Ross County)+
Glenn Middleton (Rangers)
David Turnbull (Celtic)
Conor McLennan (Aberdeen)
Fraser Hornby (Stade de Reims)
James Scott (Hull City)
+ on loan from Rangers
++ on loan from Celtic
+++ on loan from Manchester City