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Wednesday, 19 December, 2018

Strachan's boys may have to be patient

Malta will try to keep Scotland at bay

Scotland manager Gordon Strachan
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World Cup qualifier
Sky Sports Football, 7.45pm Monday

Scotland's hopes of qualifying for their first World Cup since 1998 are flickering after a 3-0 win in Lithuania on Friday, but they still have to rely on others and not have any slip-ups if they are to secure an improbable passage to Russia.

An England victory over Slovakia at Wembley on Monday would help their cause no end, especially if they beat Malta, as is widely expected.

Gordon Strachan's side would then be one point off a possible playoff berth with two qualification games remaining.

They should have enough to ensure they complete their part of the bargain at Hampden Park, particularly as they will be buoyed by the performance in Vilnius.

That result has given them a chance and it followed a decent performance against England before they were pegged back by a late goal from Harry Kane.

Malta are the weakest team in Group F and are notoriously bad travellers which, considering the Scots' World Cup history, may constitute a warning sign.

However, they showed some steel in holding out against England until eight minutes into the second half on Friday.

In Malta's last ten matches the first goal has arrived in the 29th minute or later on seven occasions, so Scotland may have to be patient.

With that in mind, it could pay to go long on Paddy Power's prediction that the first goal will arrive in the 20th minute - just one of Scotland's last 13 goals has arrived before that mark.

First goal after the 20th minute
1pt 10-11 Paddy Power

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Team news
Gordon Strachan looks set to name an unchanged team after Friday's win although Matt Ritchie and Ryan Fraser are pushing for starts.

Striker Alfred Effiong is available after suspension while defender Joseph Zerafa should have shaken off a knock.

Key stat
Malta have scored in just four of their last 19 away matches.

Malta are the weakest team in Group F and are notoriously bad travellers
E.W. Terms
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