Scotland’s preparations for their crucial World Cup qualifying double-header next week suffered a huge blow yesterday after skipper Scott Brown and fellow midfielder Stuart Armstrong were both ruled out through injury.
The influential Celtic duo also now face a race against time to be fit for their club’s Champions League showdown with Bayern Munich in three weeks’ time.
Brown pulled up with a recurrence of hamstring problem during the Scottish champions’ emphatic victory over Anderlecht in Brussels on Wednesday night after his team-mate had aggravated his calf in the warm up.
Celtic midfielders Stuart Armstrong and Scott Brown will miss Scotland’s World Cup qualifiers
Brown limped off against Anderlecht with a tight hamstring while Armstrong sat the game out
In a wounding blow to Gordon Strachan, both players will now miss Thursday’s make-or-break clash with Slovakia at Hampden and the trip to Slovenia three days later which will determine Scotland’s chances of yet reaching Russia 2018.
Confirming the players faced ‘a few weeks out’, Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers is hopeful the pair may yet be fit to return to action in the club’s next Champions League clash in Munich on October 18.
‘I’m obviously disappointed for them, on both fronts really,’ Rodgers said.
‘The frustration in it is that they are not like six-week injuries either. They are injuries which are probably a few weeks, all being well.
‘Browny is a recurrence of an injury he had maybe 18 months ago at the top of his hamstring. It’s really, really unfortunate.
‘Stuart just felt it in the warm-up and then he tried in the game to go out and warm-up but it was too stiff.
The news is a major blow to Scotland boss Gordon Strachan’s hopes of reaching the World Cup
‘It’s just absolutely so unlucky for us and their availability for the Hibs game but also for Scotland, which is a huge loss.’
Asked if Bayern away was a realistic target, Rodgers replied: ‘Hopefully, yeah. We would hope certainly, if not then, then certainly by the Hibs semi-final on October 21.’
While Rodgers’ main concern is preserving a 57-game unbeaten domestic run against Hibs and Dundee either side of the international break, the impact of the absentees on Scotland’s prospects of making the play-offs also troubles him.
Goalkeepers: Jordan Archer, Craig Gordon, Allan McGregor.
Defenders: Ikechi Anya, Christophe Berra, Liam Cooper, Charlie Mulgrew, Andy Robertson, Kieran Tierney, Steven Whittaker.
Midfielders: Barry Bannan, Darren Fletcher, Ryan Fraser, James Forrest, James McArthur, John McGinn, Matt Phillips, Matt Ritchie, Robert Snodgrass.
Forwards: Steven Fletcher, Leigh Griffiths, Chris Martin
‘Firstly, for the players. I see what it means to them,’ he explained.
‘When I speak with the players, all the Scotland boys want to go with Scotland. That’s not always the case at international level.
‘I’ve had experiences in my managerial career where players don’t want to go with their countries. But all the boys want to go with Scotland. They enjoy the environment they are in with Gordon, Mark (McGhee) and the staff. And secondly they are very patriotic. They want to do well for Scotland. And of course when there is an influx of them there you want them to do well because they are representing their club side as well.
‘I also look and see the time that’s gone by (since Scotland last qualified) so I would like Scotland to do well as a nation and get back to producing players and getting back to some of these finals.’
The SFA confirmed last night that Strachan had, as yet, no plans to bring in a replacement.
However, Celtic midfielder Callum McGregor, who thus far has been overlooked at full international level, may yet come into the reckoning if the weekend’s action was to take a further toll on the squad.