Scotland looking to capitalise on Czech woes
Assistant manager Peter Houston says Scotland must beat the Czech Republic on Saturday if they are to have any chance of qualifying for Euro 2012.
The second-placed Czechs sit five points above Scotland in Group I but have played a game more than Craig Levein's side, who also face Lithuania at Hampden next Tuesday.
The race for the runner-up spot behind world champions Spain is tight but Scotland have taken hope from a number of injuries to high profile Czech players going into the game.
The Czechs' talismanic goalkeeper Petr Cech is out with a knee injury, leaving coach Michal Bilek to choose between two uncapped keepers -- Ales Hruska and Jan Lastuvka -- and Jaroslav Drobny, who has played only four times.
The Czech Republic lost 3-0 in a friendly to Norway last month and have won only one of their past seven matches, a 2-0 victory over Liechtenstein in March.
In comparison, optimism is high amongst the Scotland camp after victories in four of their past five home internationals with their only loss a narrow 3-2 defeat to Spain.
And while not reading too much into their opponents' form going into the match, Houston says the Scots must take all three points on Saturday if they are to secure a play-off spot for Euro 2012.
"I am looking at the Czech Republic game and thinking we have to win," Houston said.
"The Czechs had a poor result against Norway but please don't underestimate them because of that.
"In many ways it could make them more determined to do well and it might be the kick up the backside that they were maybe needing to get their minds focused again.
"They have had a blow with their goalkeeper missing, I will be honest enough to say that.
"He plays an awful lot of games for them and the second and third goalkeepers don't play a lot. He is a big influence in the team.
"But we will be very wary of the Czechs, they are a quality nation and we know that they have quality players. So we expect a very tough game.
"But I think we have quality players as well and we have a game plan and hopefully it is one from which we will get three points."
Scotland boss Levein came in for criticism following the 1-0 defeat to the Czech Republic in Prague last year where he deployed a highly defensive 4-6-0 formation.
But the Scotland boss says he has learned a lot about his players in the past 10 months and is adamant he now knows his best team and the most effective way to deploy them to overcome the Czech Republic on Saturday.
"The fact is we are getting better and better. We are a completely different team to what we were a year ago," Levein said.
"I am better than I was a year ago, I understand this job better. And the players are definitely better players.
"I don't think I showed the Czechs too much respect a year ago. It's just that we were where we were at that time. I had little time to work with the players. I had no idea what the best system was.
"I thought it was right to play that way. This time I'll do the same - pick the team I think can win the game.
"I feel we're ready for this game. I can't guarantee we'll win but we'll give it our all."
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