Scotland manager Steve Clarke has three big decisions to make when it comes to choosing his team for the country’s biggest game in decades in Serbia on Thursday.
The Rajko Mitic Stadium in Belgrade will be where our long wait to play in the finals of a major tournament comes to an end or our hopes are shattered.
For a generation of Scotland supporters who have never seen their country qualify, it really does not come any bigger than this – and Steve has a few dilemmas to contend with.
Should the team which beat the Czech Republic get another chance or does he bring back the established guys like Scott McKenna and Kieran Tierney?
Aberdeen defender Andy Considine did really well in his two appearances and, while he lacks international experience, when it comes to playing in big European matches away from home he has more than enough in his locker.
Andy’s displays were so good he kept his place in the squad, which is an impressive feat in itself. As one of the most experienced defenders in the squad I’m sure he won’t let anyone down if he called upon, but he will be happy just to be part of it.
Craig Gordon has had a great start to the season with Hearts, but it would be so harsh on David Marshall if he did not start on Thursday. He has been excellent in his appearances for the country.
But the toughest question of all for Steve is what to do with Leigh Griffiths? He is a goalscorer and we really don’t have that clinical forward player in the ranks.
I think the Celtic striker will feature on Thursday but I don’t know if he will start and give the side an hour or come on in the 60th minute. But I expect he will be involved at some point.
Serbia will fancy their chances, but I believe we have a good chance of winning this one provided we can keep Sergej Milinkovic-Savic quiet. The Lazio midfielder scored twice as Serbia stunned Norway in the play-off semi-final last month and he will be their key player.
There has been some debate about whether the Serbian players who are based in Italy will be free to play, but it seems both Sergej Milinkovic-Savic and Inter Milan’s Aleksandar Kolarov had already left Italy to join up with their national side before the Covid-19 restrictions on players leaving the country was announced on Sunday.
I expect the other Serbian players plying their trade in Serie A, Filip Duricic of Sassuolo and Fiorentina duo Nikola Milenkovic and Dusan Vlahovic to be allowed to play, too, but, of course, I doubt any Scottish fans will be disappointed if any of these players miss out.
Goodness knows we’re due a bit of good luck for a change, but with two Scottish midfielders – Stuart Armstrong and John McGinn – at the top of their game at clubs in the Premier League in England right now, we have to be positive.
Steve will be preparing his side in the belief all the Italy-based players are involved, but his real focus will be on his own side. Serbia away is a tough game, but, with the stakes so high, in a one-off match anything can happen.
Staggies stepping up from last season
Two points from their last six matches may paint a picture of Ross County struggling in the Scottish Premiership, but I believe the Staggies have made progress from last season.
I was at Victoria Park on Saturday to see Stuart Kettlewell’s side draw 1-1 with Livingston and that game in particular really showed how the team has changed in the last 12 months.
I watched Livi come up to Dingwall last season and run riot against County as they romped to a 4-1 win.
The contrast between that game and Saturday could not have been more stark. Both sides had spells when they were on top, but County matched Livingston both physically and mentally. They were well beaten on both fronts last year.
County are struggling for some confidence following some sore losses against Celtic, Rangers and Aberdeen, but I expect to see them kick on and get back to winning ways after the international break.
Dons deserve credit for a flying start
In a season where all the national focus is on Celtic and Rangers, Aberdeen deserve huge credit for making their second best start to a season in 20 years.
The Dons are third in the Premiership after amassing 26 points from their opening 12 games. They are 12 points behind leaders Rangers, but have two games in hand.
For now, I expect Derek McInnes to be focused on opening up a gap on fourth-placed Hibernian and, with the squad he has, I would be surprised if the Dons do not pull away from the chasing pack.
Staying in touch with the big two is a tall order, but the Dons should not concern themselves with that at this stage. I still expect Rangers and Celtic to pull away, but I also fancy the Dons to do the same to the teams behind them.
Of course, if they are still in touch with the big two come the run-in that would be fantastic.
The response to the Scottish Cup semi-final loss to Celtic was very good on Friday as Sam Cosgrove opened his account for the new season with an excellent finish in the 2-0 win against Hibs.
I had to watch his goal three or four times as it was an unbelievable strike. As a striker coach I would never encourage any player to use the outside of their right foot to score in the manner he did.
He looked like a guy who had scored seven goals in his last three games, not a player opening his account for the new season.