Gordon Strachan rules out resting Scotland players in danger of ban

• Five Scots would miss Slovakia showdown if booked against Malta
• Strachan eyeing World Cup play-off spot after win in Lithuania

Scotland’s stride back into contention for a World Cup play-off place comes with a complication. With the visit of Slovakia to Glasgow next month now a key match, Gordon Strachan must hope five players – Grant Hanley, Charlie Mulgrew, Leigh Griffiths, Scott Brown and James McArthur – emerge from Monday’s game against Malta without the booking which would trigger suspension.

“No, this has to be done,” Strachan said when asked whether he could consider sparing players what should be a routine victory against Malta. “You have to get a win.”

Brown and Griffiths, given their prominence in the team, are especially significant with Slovakia in mind. “Play the game but just don’t do silly things,” Strachan said.

“We advised these guys the other night [before the win in Lithuania]; yes, get angry but don’t kick the ball away or shout at the referee. If you get booked by making a tackle that’s going to help us or you make a mistake, then there is nothing we can do about that. Stand up and be counted. Don’t be bullied by anyone for the sake of not getting that yellow card.

“In certain areas we have to be really worried about someone getting a yellow card and in other areas you are like: ‘That’s OK, we are well covered there.’”

Brown and Griffiths are two of six Celtic players who started Friday’s 3-0 win in Vilnius. As far as Strachan is concerned the emergence of that group – Celtic will play Champions League football again this season – has been of benefit to the international side. “That camaraderie they have together is wonderful,” the manager said. “They trust each other with the ball. They bring everybody into their circle. They don’t keep anybody out of it.”

The widespread assumption that Strachan would call time on his Scotland tenure at the conclusion of yet another failed qualifying campaign has been clouded somewhat by the claiming of seven points out of nine. The man himself remains typically evasive on the subject of his future.

“Listen, I just get on with it,” Strachan said. “I have got to say I just love working with these players. Players re-energise you, absolutely. People think it works one way but it doesn’t. It works the other way. They make you feel young and enjoy it.

“Over the last three years I have learned a lot more about bits and bobs and systems and things. It has been a great learning period for me as well. They are a good group of lads. I love being in their company, absolutely love being in their company. I don’t want to go down that road. I just enjoy what I’m doing. I don’t know if I’ve been vindicated [for not resigning earlier]. I don’t look at things that way. I just get on with it.”

Strachan is expected to make few – if any – changes from Friday. Scotland are looking to win back-to-back games in an international double-header for the first time since 2007. They have never won four successive World Cup qualifiers; such a run will almost certainly be needed to seal second place in Group F.

“Of course the first thing you do is say: ‘We did terrifically well on Friday.’ Then you look at it again and say: ‘Celtic players have played 10 games, others have played two over a period of time.’

“So you look at that and ask: ‘Is somebody too tired to go again?’ Physically they’ve not been playing competitive football – that kind of thing. But what you can’t do is take the energy away. If you are replacing them you need to replace them with energy.”

Scotland (4-2-3-1, probable): Gordon; Tierney, Berra, Mulgrew, Robertson; Brown, McArthur; Forrest, Armstrong, Phillips; Griffiths.

Malta (4-4-1-1, probable): Hogg; Borg, Magri, Agius, Z Muscat; Kristensen, Fenech, Pisani, Zerafa; Schembri; Farrugia.

Referee: J Kehlet (Den)