Mexico v Scotland: Alex McLeish looks for minor improvements

By Alasdair Lamont

BBC Scotland in Mexico City

Scotland manager Alex McLeish at the Azteca Stadium
Scotland manager Alex McLeish enjoys his first look at the "phenomenal" Azteca Stadium
International friendly: Mexico v Scotland
Venue: Estadio Azteca, Mexico City Date: Sunday, 3 June Kick-off: 01:00 BST
Coverage: Watch on BBC One Scotland and repeated on BBC Two Scotland later on Sunday; text commentary on the BBC Sport website

Scotland manager Alex McLeish believes small improvements could lead to a shock victory over Mexico on Sunday.

McLeish and his players had a stroll on the Azteca Stadium pitch on Friday night after flying in from Lima.

As they were in Wednesday's loss to Peru, Scotland are heavy underdogs but McLeish is hopeful nonetheless.

"I'm always optimistic my team can get something from a game. If we can just brush up on some minor details - and they are minor, very minor," he said.

"But it leads to a very harsh situation when you're playing international football.

"The odds are against us. The expectations are that Mexico should beat Scotland in terms of Fifa rankings for a start, the fact Mexico have got their very top squad out and we've got a few new kids on the block.

"I want them to rise to the occasion the way they did the other night. I was very pleased with a lot of the performances and indeed the team performance."

McLeish says there will be around five changes to the starting line-up, with new caps for goalkeepers Scott Bain and Jon McLaughlin, who are expected to play a half each in the iconic Azteca Stadium.

"It's phenomenal," he told BBC Scotland. "It's the first time I think for everyone - maybe one or two of the staff have been but for me it's the first and it is mightily impressive," McLeish enthused.

"It's a huge bowl and you can imagine 100,000 people going crazy in here and that could be quite intimidating.

"As Archie Knox used to say when Aberdeen went to stadiums all over Europe 'if you cannae play on this pitch, you cannae play anywhere'. There was normally an expletive in there. It's a wonderful stadium and I'd love the players to show their best quality."

'It's a pretty special place'

Ryan Christie (left), with Scotland team-mates Callum Paterson and Graeme Shinnie at the Azteca Stadium
Ryan Christie (left), with Scotland team-mates Callum Paterson and Graeme Shinnie at the Azteca Stadium

That's what Ryan Christie is aiming to do if given the opportunity to add to his two caps.

"It's pretty breathtaking. I don't think I've ever been in an arena quite like this. It's a pretty special place, full of history so we're very lucky to get the chance hopefully to play here," he told BBC Scotland.

"Obviously Mexico, it'll be kind of party fever for them going to the World Cup and they'll be wanting to put on a show and again we're just trying to spoil the party.

"It was a frustrating night the other night but we've taken plenty positives from it. It's going to be tough but we feel we've got enough to combat it."

Christie accepts there is little the Scots can do to combat the effects of playing at high altitude, but he stressed: "We're all fit players and it's a level playing field.

"I don't think we'll read into it too much and I don't think it can be too much of an excuse either. We just need to get on with it and hopefully we'll put up with it just fine."

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