Lithuania v Scotland: Edgaras Jankauskas tips Scots to secure play-off spot

Edgaras Jankauskas
Edgaras Jankauskas has been manager of Lithuania since January 2016
World Cup qualifier: Lithuania v Scotland
Venue: LFF Stadionas, Vilnius Date: Friday, 1 September Kick-off: 19:45 BST
Coverage: Live on BBC Radio Radio Scotland 810MW, plus live text commentary via the BBC Sport website and BBC Sport app

Lithuania boss Edgaras Jankauskas believes Scotland can secure a World Cup play-off berth and insists they are a better side than the one his team took a point from in Glasgow.

A win over Slovenia and draw with England has reignited Scottish hopes of achieving a play-off berth.

While Jankauskas will try to smother those hopes on Friday, he says Gordon Strachan's side can take second spot.

"I wouldn't be surprised if Scotland get through," he said.

Group F

"They have proven that in the recent games against Slovenia and England but we need a positive result.

"I am a big fan of Scottish football so taking a point from Hampden was a big achievement for us.

"As much as I appreciate Scottish football we will try to be relentless in the game because we have our goals and we will follow our dream.

"We might create a big day for our sport and our country tomorrow."

Former Hearts striker Jankauskas knows the Scottish game well and is fully aware of the threat posed by Leigh Griffiths from set-pieces, having watched the Celtic striker score a spectacular free-kick double against England at Hampden.

"I forbid my players from fouling on the edge of the box," he said. "I remember Griffiths from my time at Hearts and his free-kicks."

Jankauskas' side go into Friday's match on the back of four successive defeats.

Leigh Griffiths scores against England
Leigh Griffiths scored two wonderful free-kicks in the 2-2 draw with England

And he knows that if his charges do snap that run, it could seal the fate of the Scots, who have only won once in Lithuania, when Christian Dailly and Kenny Miller scored in a 2-1 win in 2006 under Walter Smith.

"If it's a day to finish Scottish hopes of qualifying, I might be sad, but we have a target and we want to put in a great display and compete for every ball," Jankauskas added.

"In Scotland, football is more important than in Lithuania, so there is more pressure on them.

"They have a very experienced manager who chooses the best players of the time and right now they are stronger than they were that night at Hampden."

The 42-year-old has been impressed by the career-renaissance of his fellow 2006 Tynecastle Scottish Cup winner Craig Gordon, currently the Celtic and Scots number one.

"He was a top keeper then and he's a top keeper now," he added.

"He can now play with both feet, and it will be difficult to beat, he's quick, smart and commanding."

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Fiodor Cernych

Fiodor Cernych celebrates
Fiodor Cernych was on the scoresheet as Lithuania drew 1-1 at Hamden earlier in qualifying

Cernych looked to have sealed a shock Lithuanian victory at Hampden last September, displaying his quality with a brilliantly taken goal that still threatens to derail Gordon Strachan's side's play-off hopes.

It was later cancelled out by James McArthur's last-gasp equaliser.

The captain of the side, Cernych was named Lithuanian player of the year for 2016 and continues to be an important element of Edgaras Jankauskas' side.

The Jagiellonia Bialystok forward has scored three times during this campaign, with goals against Slovenia and Malta also under his belt. Indeed, he has hit half of Lithuania's tally in the group.

Lukas Spalvis

Lukas Spalvis
Lukas Spalvis has been in fine form for his club in Germany this season

A potential star for Lithuania. The 23-year-old is on the books of Sporting Club in Lisbon but is on loan at German second tier Kaiserslautern for the season.

Spalvis had a very impressive goals-to-games ratio while plying his trade in the Danish top flight with Aalborg, scoring 30 in 65 appearances, something that alerted the Portuguese club he is yet to play for due to injuries.

Those injuries have prevented him adding to his 18 caps. He is, however, now fit and has grabbed two goals in three appearances in Germany already.

His is not dissimilar in style to his national coach, the former Hearts striker.

Vykintas Slivka

Vykintas Slivka
Hibernian's Vykintas Slivka grabbed the winner as his side won 3-2 at Ibrox

The Hibernian midfielder announced his arrival on the Scottish Football scene with the Edinburgh side's winner over Rangers at Ibrox and is one of the young hopes in his homeland.

Much was expected of the 22-year-old when he was on the books of Juventus, and after numerous loan spells at lesser lights in Italy and at Den Bosch in the Netherlands, he is under pressure to perform, particularly in matches such as this one against the Scots.

Slivka has started just twice for Hibs but possesses quality and scored Lithuania's second against Slovenia on match-day one before they squandered a 2-0 lead.

If, as expected, he is given the nod, he will likely come up against Scott Brown in the heat of a midfield battle that could be crucial to the outcome of the match.

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