Levein sorts out defensive issues
Scotland manager Craig Levein insists he is comfortable starting any player in his squad despite the defensive selection problems that hampered his initial preparations for Saturday's World Cup opener against Serbia.
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Already missing full-backs Steven Whittaker and Phil Bardsley to ankle injuries, Levein lost Danny Fox, Charlie Mulgrew and Russell Martin this week and is unlikely to have them fit for Tuesday's visit of Macedonia.
Centre-back Christophe Berra was also a doubt until his girlfriend gave birth to a baby girl on Wednesday.
Levein has this week called up Huddersfield left-back Paul Dixon, Bristol City full-back Richard Foster and MK Dons defender Gary MacKenzie, all of whom are uncapped.
But he has no problems handing any of them a debut at Hampden tomorrow in Scotland's first qualifying match.
"What I don't like is uncertainty," Levein said. "We had a lot of that in the early part of the week, not just with the Christophe Berra situation with his girlfriend having the baby.
"We had Russell Martin, Charlie Mulgrew and Danny Fox all unsure whether they were going to make it.
"What we have got now is certainty and I'm happy.
"Everyone in the squad is more than capable of starting if need be."
Dixon looks the likeliest to make his debut given the shortage of experienced options at left-back.
"I was fortunate enough to work with him at Dundee United," Levein said.
"He provides us with an attacking threat down that left side.
"Bringing someone like him into the squad, I know what I'm getting.
"I know exactly what his strengths are and I know how to use him. That gives me a degree of comfort."
Levein will deploy his usual 4-5-1 formation with skipper Gary Caldwell a strong candidate to play in midfield on his 50th appearance amid the absence of Scott Brown, Darren Fletcher and James McArthur.
"What's important to me is the players understand the system, that the players feel comfortable in the system and they go on the pitch knowing exactly what their task is, because we have been doing the same sort of thing for a couple of years and reinforcing things as often as we can," he said.
While short of experienced options in defence, Levein has a number of selection posers further up the field.
James Forrest returns from injury following the impressive 3-1 friendly win over Australia while Shaun Maloney was at the hub of much of Scotland's attacking play in that game after replacing James Morrison when the West Brom midfielder went off injured early on.
Striker Jordan Rhodes scored on his first start but Kenny Miller is back in the squad after being rested.
"In my opinion there are four players that should start that won't," Levein said.
"It is difficult but that for me is a dilemma I'd much rather have than a position where I'm struggling for players."
Levein is unsure whether he will name his team on Friday as usual given the previous uncertainty over his options but, like Caldwell, another player already on the team sheet is Allan McGregor.
The Besiktas goalkeeper was a major doubt after suffering a groin injury against Australia but he made his return for his club last weekend.
"The medics took it a little bit easy on him at the beginning of the week.
"He has trained the last couple of days."