‘Must-not-lose’ for Scotland in Austria, says McGregor

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Callum McGregor in action during Scotland's 2-2 draw with Austria at Hampden
Callum McGregor was a late substitute in Scotland’s 2-2 draw with Austria at Hampden
Venue: Ernst-Happel-Stadion, Vienna Date: Tuesday, 7 September Kick-off: 19:45 BST
Coverage: Listen on BBC Radio Scotland; live text commentary on the BBC Sport website & app; highlights on BBC One Scotland & BBC iPlayer at 22:35

Scotland’s World Cup qualifying visit to Austria is a “must-not-lose game, rather than must-win”, according to midfielder Callum McGregor.

Steve Clarke’s side sit third in Group F, a point ahead of Tuesday’s hosts after beating Moldova 1-0.

Leaders Denmark have five wins from five, while Israel are two points clear of Scotland after thumping Austria 5-2.

“We know it’s a big game, especially after the other night,” said Celtic captain McGregor.

“We got a positive result, they got a negative result.

“We’re getting to the point where you start to run out of games, so the next two or three are massive for us.

“A win on Tuesday would put us in the best possible position, but if you want to label it, it’s a must-not-lose game, rather than must-win.

“If we can come away with four points from the next two, I think we’ll be doing well.”

Scotland host Israel in the first of October’s matches, followed by trips to the Faroe Islands and Moldova, with the final match at home to Denmark on 15 November.

The nation finishing second will enter a 12-team play-off, with the winners of three separate paths then progressing to Qatar 2022.

Team news

Ryan Fraser, Nathan Patterson and Kenny McLean have withdrawn from the squad, while Scott McTominay, Stuart Armstrong and James Forrest were ruled out prior to last Wednesday’s 2-0 defeat in Copenhagen.

Uncapped Hibernian defender Paul McGinn was called up at short notice.

Austria playmaker Marcel Sabitzer missed Austria’s 2-0 win in Moldova and the heavy loss in Israel, and has not recovered in time to face Scotland.

What do we know about Austria?

John McGinn’s spectacular overhead kick rescued a 2-2 draw at Hampden when the sides met for their opening World Cup qualifier in March.

That was ahead of Austria outperforming the Scots at the summer Euro finals by qualifying from their group before losing narrowly to eventual winners Italy.

However, Franco Foda’s side are on the back foot after Saturday’s humbling in Israel – a painful night for Watford and former Kilmarnock goalkeeper Daniel Bachmann.

Austria will now be desperate for three points as, like Scotland, they look to qualify for their first World Cup finals since 1998, and their normally conservative German head coach could play to their strengths going forward.

At 32, Bologna’s former West Ham striker Marko Arnautovic remains a threat and scored against Moldova and Israel. Hoffenheim midfielder Christoph Baumgartner has also found the net in his last three games for club and country and Barcelona’s summer signing, 18-year-old Yusuf Demir, is literally waiting in the wings.

“No doubt Austria will be desperate to bounce back,” said McGregor. “We know from the previous game at Hampden that they are a threat so we need a top performance.”

‘It’s like a final for us’ – what the managers said

Scotland head coach Steve Clarke: “Moldova was a pivotal game. We had to get three points there. We did that. This is another game that’s important in the group.

“Every point can be important. I don’t know what the necessary points total will be now. There are so many combinations and so many thoughts in your head. It’s better just to focus on the game and look for a good performance.

“We’re all scrapping for the points. I always felt teams would take points off each other and the group dynamic has changed a little bit after the Israel-Austria result.

“Austria are a very good team. They showed that in the Euros. They took the Italians all the way, which is a difficult thing to do. It will be a tough game for us and a tough game for them.”

Austria head coach Franco Foda: “It’s like a final for us and we have to get three points, but we’re definitely capable of doing that.

“We know we have to win this game. I trust the team and we’ll do everything we can to do that.

“Scotland play a lot of long balls, crosses into the box. It’s going to be important for us that we we win those headers.”

Match statistics

  • The sides have met 21 times previously, with Austria winning eight and Scotland six.
  • Scotland are unbeaten in their last four visits to Austria in all competitions, winning twice, since losing 3-2 in September 1978 in a European Championship qualifier, but this is their first visit to Austria since a 1-0 friendly win in Vienna in 2007.
  • Austria have failed to score in each of their last two home games, a 4-0 defeat by Denmark in a World Cup qualifier in March and goalless draw with Slovakia in a June friendly.
  • Scotland are looking to secure back-to-back victories for the first time since October 2020.
  • Austria have never lost consecutive home World Cup qualifiers and have alternated between a win and defeat in their last six games.
  • Scotland have been unable to keep a clean sheet in any of their last nine competitive away games since beating San Marino 2-0 in March 2019. They are also winless in their last five competitive games on the road, losing three, since beating the Czech Republic 2-1 in September 2020.
  • Marko Arnautovic has been involved in 13 goals in his last 15 appearances for Austria in all competitions, scoring nine and assisting four.
  • Queens Park Rangers striker Lyndon Dykes ended a run of 12 games without a goal for Scotland in their 1-0 win over Moldova and is looking to score in consecutive international matches for the first time.

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