Graeme Shinnie is expected to stand in at left-back for Scotland against Kazakhstan after Kieran Tierney was ruled out of the Euro 2020 qualifier.
Celtic’s Tierney, who had been due to move from central defence with captain Andy Robertson missing the trip to Astana, is out with a hip injury.
Shinnie has been playing in midfield for Aberdeen but previously played at club level at left-back.
Kazakhstan are without injured Yuriy Logvinenko and Bauyrzhan Islamkhan.
Experienced Astana centre-back Logvinenko is one cap away from a half-century and Kairat Almaty midfielder Islamkhan will be remembered by Scottish fans for a sensational long-range strike against Aberdeen in the Europa League in 2015.
But head coach Michal Bilek, who will be taking charge of Kazakhstan for the first time, has persuaded former AC Milan and Watford midfielder Alexander Merkel, who he describes as “very talented”, to join his squad.
The 27-year-old former Germany youth international, who moved from Kazakhstan aged six at plays for Heracles in Netherlands’ top flight, has only played once for his native country, in 2015.
Scotland head coach Alex McLeish fears the rhythm from recent wins will be lost after a spate of call-offs but hopes the much-criticised trip to Peru and Mexico last summer will pay off on Thursday.
Liverpool’s Robertson is one of six absentees from the team that started the November victories against Albania and Israel as Scotland won their Nations League group.
Rangers goalkeeper Allan McGregor is retired from international football, Cardiff City right-back Callum Paterson and Bournemouth winger Ryan Fraser are both ruled out because of the artificial surface, while Sheffield Wednesday striker Steven Fletcher and Celtic midfielder Ryan Christie are injured.
“We want to try and get a little bit of familiarity in the set-up every time we name the squad,” McLeish said. “If you keep changing the team then you lose a little bit of rhythm.
“It doesn’t matter how good the players are that you bring in – if you get victories together and a set of players who know each other inside out then they get that momentum. That’s really important in any tournament, especially in these games coming up.
“But the fact we played games in Central and South America last summer has helped us to get a good assessment on a lot of the other players at Scotland’s disposal.”
McLeish, who expects Aberdeen defender Scott McKenna to overcome a thigh strain, has selected Celtic midfielder Callum McGregor as captain in the absence of Liverpool full-back Robertson, who will join the squad for Sunday’s game against San Marino.
Bilek is expecting a “much better” Scotland side than the one he overcame as Czech Republic boss in Prague in a European Championship qualifier the visitors lost 1-0 in 2010.
“They have a lot of very fast players, especially wingers, and they deliver the ball into the box very quickly,” he said. “All the Scottish players are very fast and their attackers are very dangerous.”
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Former Scotland striker Billy Dodds on Sportsound
The number of withdrawals from the team that beat Israel worries me because this is a difficult fixture. To handle these sort of fixtures, which we haven’t done well in the past, you need experience. That can get you through these tricky away games.
We still have quality, though, and are really strong in midfield. I can see us getting a result, but we’ll have to be at our best.
- This will be the first-ever meeting between Kazakhstan and Scotland
- Scotland have won their last two matches (both in the Nations League) – they last won three competitive games in a row in October 2017
- Scotland have lost just one of their last 10 competitive matches, and won seven, losing to Israel in October 2018.
- Alex McLeish won five of his eight Euro 2008 qualifiers, losing the other three. Scotland failed to qualify for the tournament, finishing third in their qualifying group behind Italy and France
- Kazakhstan are looking to win consecutive matches in all competitions for the first time since March 2016
- James Forrest has scored five goals in his last two games for Scotland after failing to net in his first 24 matches
- Oralkhan Omirtayev has scored in each of his last two games for Kazakhstan, netting the only goal of the game last time out versus Moldova
Goalkeepers: Scott Bain (Celtic), Liam Kelly (Livingston), Jon McLaughlin (Sunderland)
Defenders: David Bates (Hamburg), Stuart Findlay (Kilmarnock), Scott McKenna (Aberdeen), Stephen O’Donnell (Kilmarnock), Liam Palmer (Sheffield Wednesday), *Andy Robertson (Liverpool), John Souttar (Hearts), *Kieran Tierney (Celtic).
Midfielders: Stuart Armstrong (Southampton), John Fleck (Sheffield United), John McGinn (Aston Villa), Callum McGregor (Celtic), Kenny McLean (Norwich City), Scott McTominay (Manchester United), *Callum Paterson (Cardiff City), Graeme Shinnie (Aberdeen).
Forwards: Oliver Burke (Celtic), Oli McBurnie (Swansea City), James Forrest (Celtic), *Ryan Fraser (Bournemouth), Marc McNulty (Hibernian), Lewis Morgan (Sunderland), Johnny Russell (Kansas City).
ALL MATCHES FOR THURSDAY 21ST MARCH 2019
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