Israel v Scotland
Thursday 11 October
Sammy Ofer Stadium, Haifa
Scotland will be looking to make it two wins from two in the UEFA Nations League, as they travel to Israel for their first away match of the new competition.
Fresh from a 2-0 victory over Albania in their most recent outing, Alex McLeish’s side will be full of confidence as they head to Haifa as they continue their quest for a playoff spot ahead of UEFA Euro 2020.
With the squad retaining a youthful edge, there is a real sense of building for the future around the national setup, with an average age of just over 26.
Andy Robertson will once again captain the side, with the Liverpool defender having led the team out for the first time against Belgium at Hampden Park last month.
Israel, however, will present a real test for McLeish’s men. The hosts come into the match in desperate need of a win, having opened their UEFA Nations League account with defeat away to Albania.
This will be the fourth fixture between the two sides, with Scotland having emerged victorious in each of the three prior encounters.
It will be a first meeting since 1986, with Paul McStay’s goal the difference in a 1-0 friendly win over Israel in Ramat-Gan.
This was the team last time we faced Israel – a 1-0 International Friendly win in 1986.— Scotland National Team (@ScotlandNT) 9 October 2018
We want you to reply and tell who you would pick as for Thursday's UEFA #NationsLeague match against Israel.
Let us know your starting eleven and formation. pic.twitter.com/dlvLcx0Y5a
The last competitive meeting of the two sides came in 1981, as a brace from John Robertson and a David Provan strike gave Jock Stein’s men a 3-1 win at Hampden in a FIFA World Cup qualifier.
Scotland manager Alex McLeish has been able to welcome back both Scott McKenna and Oli McBurnie to the squad, after both players missed the win over Albania due to injury.
However, he will be without both Leigh Griffiths and Ryan Fraser for the match in Haifa, after both withdrew from the squad earlier this week.
Israel have included former Celtic midfielder Beram Kayal in their 23-man squad, with the midfielder now plying his trade at Brighton.
Scotland manager Alex McLeish: “We are looking for top performances from the guys that we have in the current squad.
“Everybody here wants to play for Scotland in these games. If we can get positive results, it just increases the confidence levels and empowers the players.”
Scotland defender Charlie Mulgrew: “It looks good but past squads have also looked good on paper. It’s about doing it. It’s all right talking about it and saying it looks good, but we’re all aware it’s about doing it.”
Scotland defender Stephen O’Donnell: “I’m looking forward to it.
“The last away trip I had was to Peru and Mexico in pre-season and I loved those two weeks.
“This will be different because it’s a competitive game. Hopefully if I get another chance I can do myself justice.”
Where will the game be played?
Capable of seating just over 30,000 spectators, the Sammy Ofer Stadium opened in 2014 after five years of construction.
The stadium is the home venue for Haifa’s two Israeli Premier League clubs, Maccabi Haifa and Hapoel Haifa. In 2002, Maccabi Haifa made history by becoming the first Israeli team to qualify for the group stages of the UEFA Champions League.
Scotland will be the first visitors to the ground since September 2017, when FYR Macedonia came away with a 1-0 win over their hosts.
How have Israel fared recently?
Coming in at 94th in the world, Israel find themselves 45 places behind Scotland in the latest FIFA World Rankings.
The Blue and Whites have endured a tough run of results in 2018, having been beaten in their three fixtures this calendar year.
Back in March, a late Romanian winner saw Israel edged out 2-1 in a friendly, before a change in manager saw Andi Herzog take the reins of the national side.
Herzog’s first match in charge ended in disappointment as Taulant Xhaka’s strike gave Albania the victory in Israel’s first UEFA Nations League match, before they found themselves outclassed by Northern Ireland in a 3-0 friendly defeat in Belfast.
Who should Scotland be looking out for?
Celtic supporters will be well aware of the threat posed by Red Bull Salzburg striker Moanes Dabour, with the 26-year-old having scored twice in the recent UEFA Europa League meeting between the two sides.
Dabour could pose a potent strike pairing with QPR frontman Tomer Hamed, who has 16 goals in 34 international appearances.
The squad is led by captain Bibras Natkho, with the Olympiakos midfielder also the most experienced member of the playing group.
Where to watch
You can watch the match live on Sky Sports, or listen live on BBC Radio Scotland, with kick-off at 7.45pm.