Dailly biggest absence for Scots in Kiev

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The Independent Football

The Scotland manager, Walter Smith, insists the loss of Christian Dailly for the European Championship qualifier in Ukraine tonight will be much harder to overcome than the absence of Garry O'Connor. A yellow card for time-wasting during the 1-0 win over France at Hampden Park on Saturday means Dailly, who has 64 caps, will miss the match in Kiev.

O'Connor did not join the squad at the team hotel on Sunday after coming off the bench against France. The Lokomotiv Moscow forward has not travelled to Ukraine and Smith remains in the dark over his reasons. But he maintained the 23-year-old's absence had barely registered in his plans for tonight's game.

Smith said: "There has not been any disruption to the squad, really. It was just a player going out. We lost Christian Dailly to suspension and that is far more of a blow to us. No disrespect to Garry O'Connor, but he has not played in the side for as long as Christian. I have not spoken to Garry or his agent [Gary Mackay]. If he has a reason why he did not turn up, I will listen to that and we can take it into account."

The Hearts defender Robbie Neilson will make his Scotland debut as a replacement for Dailly. Smith will bring Kenny Miller back, after the Celtic striker was suspended for the victory over France.

Ukraine are expected to make at least one change following the 2-0 defeat in Italy at the weekend. Andrei Shevchenko missed the match in Rome with a virus, but the Chelsea striker has returned to training and looks set to start. Ukraine's coach, Oleg Blokhin, yesterday expressed frustration at questions about Shevchenko's health and ability, saying it was hurting his side ahead of the match against Scotland.

"I would ask you not to raise this matter. I find it quite unpleasant. And it is creating some discomfort in my relations with Shevchenko," Blokhin told a news conference. "None of this is helping to create a proper climate in the team... I have to get our guys ready psychologically." Blokhin said Shevchenko was no longer ill, had been in training for the last three days and had joined the rest of the team.

Smith admittedShevchenko's return was not good news for the visitors. "He is not just another player, he is an exceptionally good player. Ukraine have a lot of good, professional players and one absolutely outstanding one. It is a little unfortunate for us that he has recovered in time."

But Smith is sureevery member of his team is ready for the task in Kiev after their win over France. "It hasn't been difficult bringing everyone back down to earth. Everyone has an awareness that we face a very difficult task in each of the games we play."

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