Scotland v Macedonia preview
Levein needs victory to silence his critics
Last Updated: September 11, 2012 11:33am
Craig Levein: Scotland boss knows victory over Macedonia is essential
If Craig Levein feels there was a 'hysterical reaction' to Saturday's 0-0 draw with Serbia, then he will need to brace himself should Scotland fail to defeat Macedonia at Hampden Park.
Anything other than three points in their second World Cup qualifying Group A contest will be regarded as a dismal failure by a press pack who have Levein in their sights due to results, tactics and team selection.
Supporters vented their frustration during the weekend stalemate, too, with the final whistle greeted with a chorus of boos, while striker Jordan Rhodes' name was being chanted long before he was finally introduced to the fray with just nine minutes remaining.
Levein was quick, and completely correct, to point out that with 27 points still to play for Scotland's qualification campaign remains at the embryonic stage, but with a group that also features Croatia, Belgium and Wales, the road to Brazil 2014 is anything but straightforward.
Visitors Macedonia must not be underestimated, with coach Cedomir Janevski's side suffering a narrow 1-0 defeat away to Croatia in their first qualifier on Friday, while a recent goalless friendly draw with Portugal demonstrates their defensive mettle.
Janevski said: "We played very well against Croatia. Even though we didn't take anything from that game, we now have more confidence.
"Scotland might be favourites at home for this game but we have confidence from the last game and we will try for a good performance and to take the points also from Glasgow."
Levein started with his favoured 4-5-1 formation against Serbia at the weekend, only switching to 4-4-2 for the final nine minutes when Rhodes replaced the ineffective Kenny Miller and the Scotland boss may be tempted to be more expansive in a game where victory is essential.
The spectre of Steven Fletcher continues to hang over the Scotland squad, with the Sunderland striker's self-imposed exile still the subject of much debate, particularly in the wake of the nation's struggles in front of goal at the weekend.
Scotland have concerns over who will act as their last line of defence against Macedonia, with first-choice goalkeeper Allan McGregor aggravating a groin problem and deputy Matt Gilks suffering a similar problem in training on Sunday.
Third choice David Marshall is ready to step up, while St Mirren shot-stopper Craig Samson has been added to the squad as cover, but Levein is hopeful McGregor and Gilks will be fit to feature, and is similarly confident over the involvement of midfielder Charlie Adam, who also has a groin injury.
The two previous meetings between the two nations show Macedonia need to be respected, having defeated Scotland 1-0 in Skopje back in September 2008, with the Tartan Army witnessing a triumph in the home fixture 12 months later as James McFadden's wonderful solo goal helped them to a 2-0 triumph.