Having recently faced off in the 2018 Nations League, they have also been drawn against one another for next month’s rescheduled Euro 2020 qualifier. A lot has happened since Scotland pipped Israel to the top of the third tier of the Nations League in 2018.
Both sides have changed managers since Scotland’s 3-2 victory over Israel in November 2018, while both nations also endured disappointing European qualifying campaigns. Neither side has kicked a ball since last November and it may take a while before they get up to speed on Friday.
While many fans may sneer at the Nations League, perhaps with good cause, Friday’s game is huge for both countries since it acts as a dress rehearsal ahead of next month’s qualifier.
Both sides will have to get to grips with playing behind closed doors, something that has become common at club level, but will be even more surreal in an international match since fans tend to generate much more atmosphere.
Getting back to the matter at hand, however, Friday’s game is an opportunity for both sides to make a statement ahead of their crunch clash next month.
Scotland prevailed in their last outing against Israel and, if anything, have improved slightly since Steve Clark took the reins last year.
In fact, the Scots have won their last three games under Clark while Israel have lost four of their last five and, while form may have gone out the window in the 10 months since they last played, it is an indicator of their ability. Scotland should win convincingly.
Scotland’s defensive record during the Euro 2020 qualifiers last year and the Nations League the year previous left a lot to be desired. They conceded 19 goals in 10 games last year, a rate of almost two goals a game, albeit most of those came against Belgium and Russia.
They also conceded four goals in their two games against Israel in the Nations League and conceded a goal a game on average. Bearing in mind that Scotland resided in the third tier of European football, that is a very poor record indeed.
They kept just one home clean sheet during last year’s qualifiers – against minnows San Marino – and simply can’t be relied upon to keep out any opposition side. Israel will fancy their chances of emulating their feat from two years ago and scoring at least once on Friday night.
At the other end, Scotland will also rate their chances of scoring against an Israel side that conceded 18 times in one of the easiest Euro 2020 qualifying groups. This all points to goals and Over 3.5 Goals represents good value when both teams’ form at either end of the pitch is taken into consideration.
With that leaky defence in mind, Scotland will look to race out of the traps on Friday night and take an early lead if possible. They took a lead in at half time in both games against Israel in their last Nations League campaign and will look to emulate that feat once more.
John McGinn is in a rich vain of goalscoring form at international level with five goals in his last three games and will look to kickstart Scotland’s charge on Friday, especially in the absence of Oli McBurnie.
James Forrest, meanwhile, notched a hattrick in the last meeting against Israel and will look to torment the Israeli defence once again. Scotland clearly have the armoury to hurt Israel and they should take a lead in at half time.
Tips for Scotland v Israel on Friday at 19:45
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