Lewandowski says Scotland are Poland’s main rival

Bayern Munich predicts second qualifier from Group D will emerge from pair playing in Warsaw tonight

Uefa 2016 Group D qualifier
Poland v Scotland, Warsaw, 7.45pm

As Warsaw prepares for its second titanic battle in four days tonight, Robert Lewandowski was predicting the identity of the second qualifier from European Championship Group D to emerge from the pair of adversaries in action at the Narodowy Stadium.

Poland’s captain and highest-profile player was frank enough to concede their defeat of Germany on Saturday won’t prevent the World champions recovering to steamroll into France in 2016 as group victor. As for the coveted second spot, now a guaranteed route to the finals due to the tournament’s expansion to 24 nations, well Ireland didn’t get a look-in.

“It is no secret that Germany will win this group easily,” said the 26-year-old Bayern Munich frontman, before adding, “but our biggest rival for second place is Scotland.


“Although we made history against Germany, it’s still only three points. If we lose against Scotland, we will have only picked up three points from the two matches and that’s not enough.”

Injury prevented Lewandowski partaking in the last meeting with the Scots, a friendly in March at the same venue that went the way of the visitors by a solitary goal. Both managers, Adam Nawalka and Gordon Strachan, were yesterday unified in their opinion of disregarding that leisurely workout as a pointer to tonight's outcome, especially as the hosts' hitman was absent.

At this early stage of the campaign, and the sequence of fixtures setting this game a month before they host Ireland in Glasgow, midfielder James Morrison provided some clue as the Scots' gameplan by declaring a draw would represent a satisfactory return.

Conversely, anything less than victory for the resurgent locals and the apathy Lewandowski believes consumes the Polish football public may creep in by the time they troop towards a tricky tie in Tbilisi against Georgia next month.

With just one change to their team likely - defensive midfielder Tomasz Jodlowiec missing out due to a twisted ankle - Poland are expected to take the initiative tonight in the possession stakes, improving on the pitiful 33% they held against Germany. Goalscoring substitute Sebastian Mila is in contention to replace Jodlowiec but the indications are Krzysztof Maczynski, a midfielder of Chinese club Guizhou Renhe, will deputise.

To translate Saturday’s heroic win over their neighbours into something of longevity, then a third straight win of the campaign is essential.

Memories of the golden era in Polish football are never far away with the iconic Zibì Boniek acting as President of the governing body and he speaks of the current squad led by Lewandowski and goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny with a glow of affection.

“The squad are confident after such a brilliant victory over Germany,” said Boniek, a veteran of three successive World Cups from 1978-1986.

“However, we cannot dwell on Saturday. Scotland are a tough team, too, and have arrived in Warsaw on the back of beating Georgia last weekend.”

Nawa?ka, speaking yesterday, doesn’t foresee the greatest victory in the association’s history having an impact, certainly not adversely.

“After Saturday, the players immediately switched their attention to this game,” he stressed.

“Our team is prepared mentally and physically for the challenge of Scotland. We have a very detailed strategy, so I am positive.”

For the Scots, Grant Hanley is unavailable having injured his knee during their first win of the campaign over Georgia, while Ikecki Anya should shake off his knock to start wide on the left.

Unsurprisingly, the name of Lewandowski dominated the questions aimed at Strachan during last night's press conference. Russell Martin, the centre-back assigned to shackle the gangly forward, realises he's in for a hectic night.

“We’ve seen enough of Lewandowski in the Bundesliga with the goals he has scored to know how dangerous he is. But we will be ready for him,” said the Norwich City captain.

POLAND (probable): Szczesny; Piszczek, Szukala, Glik, Wawrzyniak; Krychowiak, Maczynski, Rybus; Grosicki, Lewandowski, Milik.

SCOTLAND (probable): Marshall; Hutton, R Martin, Berra, Robertson; McArthur, Brown; Morrison, Naismith, Anya; S Fletcher.