Celtic's Stuart Armstrong pushing for Scotland call-up

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Celtic scorer Stuart Armstrong - Draw feels like a loss

Stuart Armstrong is being strongly tipped for a Scotland call-up on Monday and underlined his fine form by scoring in Celtic's 1-1 draw with Rangers.

It will be a major surprise if the uncapped 24-year-old midfielder is not named in Gordon Strachan's squad to face Canada and Slovenia.

Armstrong was a dominant presence for Brendan Rodgers' side and opened the scoring with a 35th-minute strike.

Rangers' reply came after he went off with tight calf muscles.

But it is unlikely to be a problem that would force his withdrawal should he be called up by the national head coach.

Scotland host Canada on 22 March in a warm-up friendly at Easter Road before facing Slovenia at Hampden Park four days later in a World Cup qualifier they must win to rekindle their hopes of qualifying for the 2018 finals.

Strachan's side lie fifth in Group F after successive 3-0 defeats away to Slovakia and England.

The national coach, who was at Celtic Park for Sunday's Old Firm derby, faces selection dilemmas created by a plethora of similar talent in midfield and a dearth of options in defence and up front.


Craig Gordon has not only bounced back from being dropped by Rodgers to reclaim his place at Celtic but has cemented his status as Scotland's number one with some impressive performances.

David Marshall will hope to retain his squad place despite having lost his starting place at Hull City.

However, regular football for club-mate Allan McGregor, on loan at Cardiff City, could mean a return to the national squad for the 35-year-old at the expense of Marshall or Jack Hamilton, whose form has been inconsistent at Hearts.


Stoke City's Phil Bardsley
Phil Bardsley could be an option at right-back following Callum Paterson's injury

Right-back is a new problem area for Strachan following a long-term injury picked up by Hearts' Callum Paterson.

Ikechi Anya was a surprise choice in that position against England and performed competently.

However, Phil Bardsley should surely be in the head coach's thoughts after reclaiming a regular place with a Stoke City side who held Manchester City to a 0-0 draw away from home in their last outing.

Left-back is, of course, where Scotland have immense strength in depth and Celtic's Kieran Tierney and Hull City's Andrew Robertson are certainties to return to the squad, having missed the England game through injury, probably at the expense of Swansea City's Stephen Kingsley.

Central defence

Charlie Mulgrew in action for Blackburn against Manchester United
Charlie Mulgrew (left) could be in contention but has picked up an injury

Central defence has long been Scotland's Achilles heel and there seems no light at the end of a tunnel bereft of quality alternatives.

Grant Hanley and Christophe Berra started against England and the former has dropped back to the Newcastle United bench in recent weeks, while Russell Martin has been part of a Norwich City side whose dip in form led to the sacking of manager Alex Neil.

Veteran Gordon Greer is on the way to recovering from a calf injury that has kept him out of the Blackburn Rovers side.

Team-mate Charlie Mulgrew was pushing for an international recall but missed out on Saturday against Norwich with a hamstring injury.

Partick Thistle's Liam Lindsay has shown some promise, but the 21-year-old has yet to even feature in the national set-up at any level.


Bournemouth winger Ryan Fraser
Ryan Fraser has become a regular with Bournemouth in the Premier League

Midfield is another area where Scotland have been spoiled for choice and it could again work against the prospects of in-form Aberdeen 25-year-old Graeme Shinnie's chances of winning a first cap - never mind a call-up.

Regular starting places will secure the places of Celtic's Scott Brown, who came out of international retirement to face England, and James Forrest, West Brom's Darren Fletcher, Newcastle's Matt Ritchie and Sheffield Wednesday's Barry Bannan.

The same could be said of Robert Snodgrass and James Morrison, who found themselves dropped to the bench for West Ham United and West Brom respectively on Saturday.

However, Oliver Burke has been used sparingly by Bundesliga outfit Leipzig and James McArthur is now having a similar experience at Crystal Palace.

Strachan will surely find room in his squad for Armstrong, whose 11th goal of the season in Sunday's derby with Rangers again emphasised his improvement under Rodgers this season.

Winger Ryan Fraser must also be pushing for a place in the squad after becoming a regular starter for Bournemouth following some scintillating form in the Premier League.

Tom Cairney, who scored his fourth goal in seven games on Saturday as Fulham beat English Championship leaders Newcastle, is another uncapped midfielder who would consider himself unlucky to be overlooked.

Matt Phillips' purple patch has been interrupted by injury as the West Brom winger seeks a Scotland recall.


Jordan Rhodes celebrates with Sheffield Wednesday
Jordan Rhodes has returned to scoring form after moving to Sheffield Wednesday

Strachan would surely trade a couple of midfielders for more choice of striker.

Leigh Griffiths started against England but has found himself out of the Celtic side thanks to the class of Moussa Dembele.

Chris Martin, who has been in dispute with Fulham after he wanted to end his loan from Derby County, was dropped to the bench on Saturday, while Steven Naismith has failed to secure a regular place with Norwich.

Steven Fletcher has often been the go-to man for Strachan, but the 29-year-old has been on the Sheffield Wednesday bench for seven games in a row - behind compatriot Jordan Rhodes.

Rhodes' failure to win a regular place at Middlesbrough had paused the constant questioning of Strachan's reluctance to pick a striker who has had a prolific career.

However, Rhodes will probably need more than three goals in eight games since his loan move to the Owls for the Scotland boss to reassess what appears to be his opinion that the 27-year-old is not suited to an international starting place.

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