Scotland v Portugal: Alex McLeish open to changing formation

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Alex McLeish preview's Scotland's match with Portugal
International friendly: Scotland v Portugal
Venue: Hampden Park, Glasgow Date: Sunday, 14 October Kick-off: 17:00
Coverage: Live coverage on BBC Radio Scotland & online

Alex McLeish insists he is not a slave to a back three after his system came in for criticism following Scotland's defeat by Israel.

But he is sticking by his belief it is the best way to accommodate Kieran Tierney and Andy Robertson in his team.

"We know how to play the back four," Scotland's head coach said ahead of Sunday's friendly at home to Portugal.

"We have changed the system in Hungary, we changed it in Mexico City, so we've got the capacity to change it as well."

However, when asked if he is likely to change his formation at Hampden Park, he said: "That's a secret."

McLeish will be forced to make personnel changes after Tierney was allowed to return to Celtic because of match fatigue, while centre-backs Charlie Mulgrew and John Souttar dropped out of the squad through injury.

Tierney has been used in a three-man central defence, with captain Robertson operating at wing-back, and the Liverpool player admitted after Thursday's loss in Haifa that the pair were being played "out of position" and would prefer to play at left-back.

"It's kind of a natural position for Andy," McLeish said. "Maybe slightly less so for Kieran, but the same principles are there.

"Andy is, by and large, an extra attacker for Liverpool every week and he likes to forage up the pitch and he has such great energy, such an athlete, and that's why we felt the dynamic was one that could work for two really great players that Scotland has at the moment and how we can get them in the team.

"I don't want to start throwing Kieran over to right back. I know it worked on one or two occasions, but I don't think he wants to play there.

"Yes, he would be a full-back, but he would be out of his natural position and I think he quite likes the centre-half role."

McLeish pointed out that his side have now won one and lost one in competitive games using three central defenders.

"I think they like the roles," he said. "Adjusting to it is obviously the key, but there are other parts of the team where we need to be stronger as well."

'They lack a bit of nous'

McLeish was probed about his after-match comments but insisted that he did not question his side's ability to qualify for the European Championship finals.

"We are obviously not in this group for no reason," he said of Scotland's position in the third tier of Nations League groups. "We have a ranking, but at the same time it is an emerging team.

"I don't think I questioned the ability of the players. In fact, I think I've praised it very highly since starting to work with them.

"The other side of it is experience - that's what the players lack. They lack a bit of experience, they lack a bit of nous."