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Strachan: England qualifier a chance to get back on track

Under-fire Scotland boss Gordon Stachan was in positive mood ahead of the sides' World Cup 2018 clash at Wembley on Friday.

Strachan: England qualifier a chance to get back on track
Dan Mullan Getty Images

Scotland manager Gordon Strachan believes Friday's World Cup qualifier against old foes England is a perfect opportunity for his side to reverse their spiralling fortunes.

Scotland have not reached a major tournament since the 1998 World Cup and were the only team from the British Isles not to qualify for this year's European Championship in France.

Scots have made disappointing start in Group F

They have made a slow start to the current campaign, thrashing minnows Malta but then drawing 1-1 at home to Lithuania and losing 3-0 in Slovakia, leaving them three points adrift of group leaders England ahead of their visit to Wembley.

"We've not been too pleased with the last two performances, that's for sure," Strachan told reporters at Thursday's pre-match press conference.

Strachan: "This game is a chance to catch up"

"Any game that we played after the last two games, we'd be desperate to try and catch up and make up ground again, because we lost ground in the last two games.

"This game is a chance to catch up. It's a chance to make ourselves feel better about ourselves. Because over the years we've felt decent about ourselves, so it's getting back to that level."

Strachan looks on during training for Friday's match against England at Wembley.

Full complement available to Scotland boss

Strachan said striker Steven Fletcher and centre-back Gordon Greer, both of whom were injury doubts, had returned to training on Wednesday, leaving him with a fully fit squad.

Celtic captain Scott Brown has overcome a dead leg and could start, having reversed his retirement from international football.

Friday's game will be the first competitive fixture between England and Scotland since November 1999, when the Scots won 1-0 at Wembley but fell 2-1 on aggregate in a Euro 2000 qualifying play-off.

Fletcher: "Both teams will have fire in their bellies"

Scotland lost 3-2 on their last trip to Wembley in an entertaining August 2013 friendly and captain Darren Fletcher feels the expectations of the home crowd could work in the visitors' favour.

"It will be a bit of a derby game," said the West Bromwich Albion midfielder. "It's a big game for England as well. They're at home, they're under pressure to perform in front of their home fans.

"Wembley's not the easiest place to play when there's a bit of expectancy on you. They demand a performance.

"That's not easy as a player to go into, especially when there's 90,000 people there expecting a performance. So it'll be difficult for them as well.

"But at the same time I think the passion's not only coming from Scotland's side. English players have got plenty of passion.

"I saw that at Celtic Park in the friendly [a 3-1 England win in November 2014]. They came out all guns blazing. It meant so much to them, and that was a friendly match.

"This is a qualifying game and both teams will be desperate to win, with fire in their bellies."

While Strachan is under pressure, Fletcher rejected suggestions the game is must-win for Scotland and believes a draw would be "a decent result".

Strachan: "Players will need no extra motivation"

England's interim manager Gareth Southgate has been showing his players footage of England-Scotland games past to educate them about the rivalry, which is the oldest in international football.

But Strachan says his players will need no extra motivation. "I think the players are intelligent enough to understand the fixture," he said.

"I don't think I have to show them anything. They know the fixture, everybody knows the fixture. It's known throughout the world.

"The important [thing] is not to be caught up in the emotion of the game: the importance of using your emotion and passion to run further than you've ever run before, jump higher than you've ever jumped before, to concentrate more than ever.

"I don't think you get too emotional. If you get too emotional, you can lose focus. So we're looking for that emotion and passion to play better than we've ever played before."