Smith trusts new line-up to beat Belarus challenge

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The Independent Online

Walter Smith is backing his Scotland side to overcome Belarus tonight despite missing almost an entire team through injury and suspension.

Walter Smith is backing his Scotland side to overcome Belarus tonight despite missing almost an entire team through injury and suspension.

The absence of key players was a feature of the reign of Smith's predecessor Berti Vogts but the call-offs have reached unprecedented levels for Smith's third game in charge. Scotland need to beat a Belarus side Smith regards as better than Norway and Slovenia to gain ground in the battle for a World Cup play-off spot.

Kenny Miller, Steven Pressley and Graham Alexander all featured in Saturday's 2-0 win over Moldova, a result which finally kick-started the Scots' qualification campaign, but yesterday all three were regarded as doubts.

Smith is already without Jackie McNamara, Robert Douglas, Nigel Quashie, Gary Naysmith, David McNamee, Garry O'Connor, Stevie Crawford, Neil McCann and Brian O'Neil through injury and Paul Hartley through suspension. But the manager, who welcomes Gary Caldwell back after a ban, said he could still put out a side capable of victory.

"We are not struggling to put a team on the pitch," Smith said. "We are struggling to know exactly who we can put there. There is a difference and whoever we put on the pitch we are optimistic can play well. We have enough players to do well in the game."

Alexander, who played in both full-back positions on Saturday, has a toe injury, centre-back Pressley has a knee problem and striker Miller has strained a thigh.

Midfielder Darren Fletcher and forward Lee McCulloch have been passed fit however following treatment for ailments.

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