Scotland face what is highly regarded as a must win game when they entertain Group D runners-up Poland on Thursday night at Hampden Park, with the hosts facing a difficult task of qualifying for next summer’s UEFA European Championships.
The best case scenario for Gordon Strachan’s side would be a third-placed finish and a play-off place for Euro 2016, although defeat against Poland would wipe out their chances of qualifying instantly.
If they should draw against Poland then Scotland will have to rely on reigning World Cup champions Germany to defeat Republic of Ireland, before hoping the Irish also lose to Poland in their final qualifier in Warsaw on Sunday.
However, the Scots could also book their place at Euro 2016 should they record back-to-back victories on Thursday and Sunday and Ireland defeat Poland in their ultimate qualifier.
The last meeting between the two countries saw Poland salvage a crucial point at home last October during their 2-2 draw at the Stadion Narodowy.
Despite Krzysztof Mączyński’s 11th minute opener for the hosts, strikes from Shaun Maloney and Steven Naismith put the visitors in pole position to snatch all three points in Poland with only 14 minutes remaining, only for Arkadiusz Milik to net the all-important equaliser late on.
After recording successive wins against Ireland and Gibraltar in their following games, Strachan’s men are currently without a win in their last three games, including a devastating defeat to Georgia (1-0) and a narrow loss to group leaders Germany (3-2) only last month.
Watford winger Ikechi Anya will miss Thursday’s crucial clash after suffering a calf strain at the weekend, meanwhile Celtic’s Charlie Mulgrew will join him on the sidelines following a thigh problem.
West Brom midfielder James Morrison will also miss the penultimate qualifier due to suspension, although he may also be forced out of Sunday’s tie as well due to injury, so Norwich City’s Graham Dorrans has been called up following the withdrawal of Wolverhampton Wanderers’ Kevin McDonald.
Baggies team-mate Darren Fletcher is also doubt after picking up a knock during the Premier League side’s 2-0 defeat at Crystal Palace, although he did train with the rest of the squad earlier this week.
Meanwhile, Poland will be heavily expectant upon star striker Robert Lewandowski to provide his country’s main source of goals having scored a sensational 12 times in his last four games for Bundesliga leaders Bayern Munich.
Group Positions: Scotland – 4th (11pts); Poland 2nd (17pts)
Last Meeting: Poland 2-2 Scotland, October 2014
Key Men: Scotland – Craig Gordon, Poland – Robert Lewandowski
Form: Scotland – LLDWWW, Poland – WLDWDD
Shoot Says: Scotland 1-1 Poland