Scotland v Belgium: Steve Clarke says no issue with mental strength

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Euro 2020 qualifying: Scotland v Belgium
Venue: Hampden Park, Glasgow Date: Monday, 9 September Kick-off: 19:45 BST
Coverage: Listen on BBC Radio Scotland; live text commentary on the BBC Sport website & app. Highlights: BBC Scotland 23:00

Scotland boss Steve Clarke insists his players have “good mental strength” as they prepare to meet in-form Belgium at Hampden on Monday.

Clarke’s side took an early lead against Russia on Friday before losing 2-1 – a third defeat in five Euro 2020 qualifying matches.

Scotland’s slim hopes of automatic qualification now rest on taking points from the world’s top-ranked team.

“They should be able to handle the pressure and expectation,” said Clarke.

“Some of the talk after the game of nerves and not handling the game properly was not quite right. It was the way the game went away from us rather than nerves.

“I’m not so worried about the mental strength. We’ve got good mental strength.”

A crowd of 32,000 watched Friday’s defeat, with swathes of empty seats behind each goal and in the national stadium’s main stand.

However, Clarke says the players will not be impacted by the lack of a full house.

“It doesn’t affect them at all,” said the 56-year-old. “They go out there and they are professionals.

“You need the crowd there and the Tartan Army onside. I thought the crowd the other night were good. We gave them something to shout about at the start.”

‘Scotland need threat in attack’

Belgium, who finished third at the 2018 World Cup, eased to a 3-0 win when Scotland visited in June in Clarke’s second match in charge after replacing Alex McLeish. The Red Devils were also 4-0 winners in a Hampden friendly this time last year.

“You have to be defensively organised but you also have to have a threat,” said Clarke. “There’s no point thinking we can camp down for 97 minutes.

“The players will learn from the June experience where we felt, while it was backs to the wall for a little bit, we stayed in the game for a long time. If we can do that here at home, we think that we have the players to cause Belgium some problems.”

Clarke indicated that he would not risk Hearts forward Steven Naismith, who missed Friday’s game with a hamstring issue, but made it clear there will be changes to his starting line-up.

“With two games coming in such a short space of time against high-quality opposition, there are players in the squad who will get a chance to play,” he said.

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