Stuart Armstrong has rejected assertions that Scotland’s European Championship qualifying campaign is over already.
A 3-0 defeat in March against Kazakhstan in their opening game set Scotland back and they were beaten comfortably by Belgium by the same scoreline in June.
Victories against San Marino and Cyprus mean the Scots go into the double-header against Russia and Belgium with six points on the board. Finishing top of their Uefa Nations League group at the end of last year means Scotland have the fall-back option of a play-off spot for the 2020 tournament next year.
Scotland are three points behind second-placed Russia, ahead of their visit to Hampden Park on Friday. Defeat would make it very difficult to claw back a six-point gap in the second half of the campaign but Southampton midfielder Armstrong refuses to think negatively about the nation’s prospects.
He said: “I think it’s a pretty defeatist attitude to be thinking like that. Certainly, that’s not the feeling within the group. We are all quite positive and the team is quite strong.
“We have all played with each other before and know each other so there is a good atmosphere.
“Undeniably they (Russia) are going to be a big part of the campaign and we are under no illusions that they won’t be. So I think a good performance and result against them will put us in the best position to get what we want out of it.”
Russia have lost just once – a 3-1 defeat to unbeaten group leaders Belgium – and have scored 14 goals in their last three games without conceding.
Armstrong faces a fight for his place in Friday’s starting line-up given the competition Scotland possess for places in the middle of the park. John McGinn and Scott McTominay have been regular starters in the English Premier League, Ryan Jack and Callum McGregor have been key players for Rangers and Celtic respectively while Kenny McLean impressed in the two games against Cyprus and Belgium.
Armstrong added: “I don’t ever think that should be the case (being guaranteed a place) when you come away with Scotland.
“It is the selection of the best of the country and a lot of people have been performing well at the start of the season and last season too. There is always going to be competition here and that’s the way it should be.”
“I think we have six or seven central midfield players who are all very good in their own right and all performing really well at club level. I feel it is a part of the pitch we are very strong at the moment.”