Scotland winger James Forrest is already preparing himself for the biggest week of his international career in March.
Although Scotland are unable to automatically qualify for next summer’s European Championships, their triumph in last year’s Nations League section has secured them a place in March’s play-offs.
Should the Scots advance through their semi final on Thursday, March 26, Steve Clarke’s men will aim to book a place at next summer’s finals by winning their final five days later, which would end the national team’s 22-year absence from a major tournament.
Celtic’s Forrest sees next month’s Group I double header against Cyprus and Kazakhstan as an ideal chance to build momentum, and he said: “Confidence was down a bit after losing in Russia but we did what was expected of us on Sunday and that will give us a boost. We want to use the matches against Cyprus and Kazakhstan to get the supporters and everyone else on board with us again so that we’re ready when the play-offs come around in March.
“We played Belgium and Russia twice each in short succession and they’re both big teams. Unfortunately, the manner in which we lost to them wasn’t what anyone wanted, which is why we need to use the next two ties to get people back onside.
“These play-off ties will be the biggest any of us have ever had for our country so it would really help if we’ve generated some momentum and the fans are right behind us.”
In the meantime Forrest will aim to help Celtic return to winning ways against Ross County on Saturday, having suffered their first league defeat of the campaign in a 2-0 reverse to Livingston prior to the international break.
Forrest feels the challenge applied by Rangers, who are two points clear at the top, makes a strong result against the Staggies all the more important, with the 28-year-old adding: “It’s a bit strange not being at the top of the table because it’s around 10 months since that was last the case.
“It keeps us on our toes because we know if we slip up then Rangers are winning regularly, so it’s vital that we take the three points off Ross County on Saturday.
“We have to get back to winning ways. Rangers went into the New Year level on points with us last season but we tend to become stronger after the winter break in January. However, we can’t take anything for granted. It’s always tight going into the second half of the season and Rangers are stronger than they were a year ago.
“Hopefully, that’s our bad performance and result behind us. Was it a wake-up call? You’d prefer to just keep winning but it’s practically impossible to maintain that high a level right through a campaign. Now we need to show a reaction to that display this weekend.”