Scotland are counting on a much-changed side to get their Euro 2020 qualifying campaign off to a winning start in Kazakhstan today but midfielder Stuart Armstrong is confident Alex McLeish’s squad is strong enough to cope.
McLeish has been hit by a spate of call-offs, with left back Kieran Tierney the latest to be ruled out of the match at the Astana Arena with a hip injury, although the Celtic player could return for Sunday’s trip to San Marino.
Tierney joins skipper Andy Robertson, Jordan Archer, Charlie Mulgrew and Barry Bannan, who did not travel, while Callum Paterson and Ryan Fraser will not be risked on the artificial surface.
Of the side which defeated Israel 3-2 in the Scots’ last fixture to win their Nations League section in November, only five – Scott McKenna, David Bates, James Forrest, Armstrong and stand-in skipper Callum McGregor – are available for selection
Southampton player Armstrong, who was born in Inverness and raised in Aberdeen, feels the incoming players will be desperate to make their mark.
He said: “Ideally, you’d want everyone available. As a nation, we want to be the best we can be. If you look at the squad as a whole, there are a lot of individuals who are playing really well for their independent clubs.
“We have a belief in the whole squad, that’s why you pick many players.
“In the squads I have been in there has always been competition no matter where you play. The boys up front will say exactly the same thing, everyone is performing well and that’s why they are in the squad.
“They will probably all feel they deserve a chance in the team. It is up to the manager to pick the team.
“Regardless of competition or not, everyone wants to perform well for their country. But I think that element of competition can only help in terms of performance.”
Armstrong has been a strong performer for Southampton in recent weeks, after initially struggling for game-time following his £7 million summer move from Celtic.
The 26-year-old hopes the benefits of his Premier League experience can help his international performance, adding: “Football is always with its ups and downs and there have been times when I have been out of the team and in the team.
“But I have had those experiences before where things don’t go the way you’d like them to.
“That was useful in terms of the move, where you don’t get in initially and you’ve got to deal with that.
“It’s a very fast game and a very physical game. I have played at points this season where someone makes a mistake and you are punished immediately. That’s the way it is down there.
“Everyone is desperate to get as high as they can in the league or if they are down the bottom they are desperate to stay in the league. It’s incredibly ruthless.
“I suppose that can only benefit you as a player.”
Tonight will not be Armstrong’s first trip to Astana Arena, with the midfielder having twice visited on Champions League duty during his time with Celtic.
Armstrong has no qualms about the artificial surface, adding: “When I came here before I was actually impressed with the condition of the pitch.
“It’s quite nice for an artificial pitch.
“All the boys in the squad will have experienced playing on artificial surfaces before, so it’s no problem.”