Scotland boss Steve Clarke fears defender Kieran Tierney will lose his fitness battle to face England at Wembley.
Arsenal stopper Tierney was ruled out of Monday’s 2-0 loss to the Czech Republic in Scotland’s Euro 2020 opener with a calf injury sustained in training.
Clarke does not anticipate the 24-year-old will return to full training on Wednesday.
That will leave Tierney only the eve of Friday’s Wembley showdown to prove his fitness.
Although the defender returned to light training the day after the loss to the Czechs, the Scots boss insists that is still a long way from being match-fit to face England.
Clarke said: “I wouldn’t think Kieran will train on Wednesday.
“I can’t tell if he is going to be okay, that is the honest answer.
“He is back light training, but that is a big difference to normal training.”
Plans thrown into disarray by injury
Clarke’s plans for Scotland’s first match at a finals for 23 years were thrown into disarray when Tierney picked up the injury two days before the Czech clash.
Clarke said: “Kieran wanted to play, like everybody wanted to play.
“We have waited a long time for the tournament to come and to miss out is a bit of a blow.
“You can’t play with a calf injury.
“There were two others who were left out with him, John Fleck and Declan Gallagher, they also wanted to play.
“I knew there was an issue 48 hours before the game.
“You are hoping when Kieran wakes up the next day he will be okay and you can tell he has a chance.
“It was one of them.”
Clarke sticking with three centre-backs
Clarke has utilised three centre-backs to effectively accommodate Tierney and captain Andy Robertson (Liverpool) – two of the best left-sided defenders in the Premier League.
Tierney has operated at left-sided centre-back with Robertson left wing-back to fix the conundrum of how to fit both stars into the starting XI.
Clarke insists, if the worst-case scenario plays out and Tierney loses his fitness battle, he will not change his system at Wembley.
He said: “The system has worked well for us.
“When we beat the Czech Republic last October, Andrew Considine was left centre-back and it was the same when we beat Slovakia.
“It is a system that has worked well for us.
“I wouldn’t understand any clamour to change the system.
“You certainly can’t change the system 48 hours before a game, especially after you have worked on it for so long.
“The preparation work was all done through the games and it was only against Luxembourg where we went for four at the back to see if we could get a second goal.
“We didn’t get it.
“It is a system that has worked well for us and (people are saying) let’s just give up because we have lost a game.”
No problem with the back-line
Scotland conceded the opener against the Czechs because a gap opened up on the left side of defence that allowed a free cross into Bayer Leverkusen striker Patrik Schick.
The defence were also posted missing when a shot from centre-back Jack Hendry was deflected into the path of Schick, who launched a magnificent near-50-yard shot beyond keeper David Marshall, who was stranded outside his box.
Clarke insists the Scots were strong defensively despite the absence of Tierney.
Clarke said: “Injuries are part and parcel of the game.
“That is the life of football.
“Kieran was out, but Grant Hanley is the captain of Norwich, Liam Cooper is the captain of Leeds and Jack Hendry has had a fantastic season in Belgium and quite a few clubs want to sign him.
“I don’t think the back three was a big problem for us on Monday.
“I don’t think the system was a problem, but the opposition was a problem because they did their jobs well and we didn’t have quite enough quality in the final third to get the goals I think your play deserved.
“That is what happens in football.”
Forced into playing long balls upfield
For periods of the defeat to the Czechs, the Scots were forced to play long balls upfield from defence – not the style that has been pursued under Clarke’s management.
Clarke insists it was not a case of deliberately setting out to play route one football, but a consequence of the Czech Republic’s press in midfield.
He said: “I think sometimes you have to credit the opposition.
“If you look at the first-half, the boy Soucek was never out of John McGinn’s pocket.
“He followed him almost all over the pitch.
“It was difficult to play through the midfield and get Scott McTominay on the ball.
“When you play with three centre-backs, you need one of your midfield players to come off and get the ball and we couldn’t get Scott on the ball from the back.
“If you can’t play through the midfield, then the next pass has to be longer up to the forwards.
“And that’s what we did.
“We created two good chances off Robbo.
“Robbo crossed one for Dykes at the near post and he probably got too big a contact on it.
“And then Robbo had a chance himself.
“We had a couple, they had a couple.”