Ukraine manager Oleksandr Petrakov says his side will give everything to try and beat Scotland on Tuesday to win their Nations League group, and believes his team are in better condition than they were a week ago.
Scotland’s 3-0 win on Wednesday at Hampden opened up Group B1 and the battle for promotion, with Steve Clarke’s side earning a hard-fought win against Ireland on Saturday to move back to the top of the group.
The top of the table clash with Ukraine in Krakow will determine who gets top spot, promotion to League A and the Euro 2024 qualification play-off spot.
Having guided his side to a win over Scotland in June in the World Cup play-off, Petrakov knows what his side are capable of, though he was keen to draw a line between the two games the nations have played already this year.
“You have to understand the status of the two matches,” he said. “The World Cup play-off, the stakes were so much higher and we felt that responsibility.
“Of course it doesn’t mean that the Nations League match is less important but the circumstances were different because it was after the very tough summer. Some players were injured, some had transfers, some had practice with clubs and some not.”
The manager says that his players were far from peak condition when they reported for international duty but after having had time to work with them, and play two games, they are in better shape.
“You know that clubs all monitor the physical state of the players and I just want to be honest that before the match in Glasgow, all of the conditions was problematic,” Petrakov said. “But we’ve had a camp now and I’m sure that tomorrow we will show a good game and do our best.
“Tomorrow is a final for us and we will do our best for our country and our fans.”
Ukraine had bounced back from their Hampden defeat with a 5-0 win in Armenia but when asked if he would stick with the same team, Petrakov was clear that wasn’t the plan.
“No, it won’t happen,” he said. “In no way do I want to insult the Armenian national team, but the difference in individual level between them and the players of Scotland is very big.
“With Scotland the football players play in the English Premier League. Therefore, our guys did well against Armenia, they did what they were asked to do but there will be changes, as always in football. It’s not a difficult decision for me.”
The manager and his staff will also be working on a specific plan to handle Scotland’s threat from set-pieces after Lyndon Dykes scored two headers from corners last Tuesday.
“We learned a lot about our opponents and our rivals so we know that a key marker for Scotland is the set pieces and they are very good at it,” Petrakov added.
“They are good at playing with high balls and the head. We learn, we analyse and we will do our best not to concede at set pieces tomorrow.”