Steve Clarke insists Scotland are in the best shape possible to make history in Serbia and reach the European Championships.
Victory in Belgrade will give Scotland their first major tournament berth since the 1998 World Cup, giving Clarke his own place in national team history.
Nerves are to be expected, even from someone as resolute as Clarke, ahead of what is a Scotland’s biggest game in a generation.
Clarke said: “I’ve never gone into a game of football where you don’t have that nervous feeling, whether you’re player or a manager. It always there on match day.
“But before that you just have to prepare yourself properly and that’s what we’ve been doing this week. We’re trying to keep it business as usual. It’s difficult for me as a manager to get carried away with the hype. We have to continue to do what we’ve before because what served us well last month will serve us well this month. We need to reach the same high standards.
“Players see through you if you’re being false. If you are nervous and you don’t show it they’ll see that you’re hiding it. But honestly, as we approach the game now, I’m perfectly calm. I think we have prepared as well as we can prepare.
“We spoke about getting to this match in the best shape possible, with a good bit of positivity around us, and we’ve managed to do that. You can see that with the public and the media – everyone’s really positive about it – and hopefully we do ourselves justice on the night.”
Clarke has virtually a full-strength squad available to him, with only Ryan Fraser and Grant Hanley withdrawing from the camp due to injury.
Serbia defeated heavily-fancied Norway to reach the play-off final, with established figures like Dusan Tadic of Ajax, Lazio talisman Sergej Malinkovic-Savic and Fulham’s Aleksandar Mitrovic integral to the side.
Clarke added: “Every time you look at the opposition you are looking for something you can hopefully exploit. What I would say about Serbia is that they weren’t particularly great in the lead up to the Norway game. But when the big one came around in Oslo they produced their best performance in five or six games.
“So we know to expect their best performance, their best players and their best team. So we have to be ready for that.
“But, yes, we have identified one or two things that can maybe cause them a problem and hopefully you’ll see that tomorrow night.”
A win would secure a place at the delayed European Championships next year, where England and Wales already have their place and Northern Ireland can also join them, when they face Scotland’s Sunday opponents Slovakia tonight.
It would also mean Clarke take the mantle from Craig Brown as the last manager to guide Scotland to a major tournament, but he is not keen on the hero status that could come with that accolade.
He said: “No, I’ve never been one to covet that. Even as a player I liked to be a wee bit under the radar. I like to be appreciated by the people around about me.
“They are the people that I work with and if I get that respect and that appreciation then that is good enough for me.”