GORDON STRACHAN will head for Malta with his Scotland international squad for a friendly against Italy in May.
The Scots will warm up for their Saturday, June 4 encounter with Euro 2016 hosts France in Metz with a game against the Italians at the holiday island’s Ta’ Qali National Stadium on Sunday, May 29.

The two matches against the European Championship finalists will form part of a mini-summer tour for the Scots who will also be based in Malta for a training camp.

Strachan, whose side failed to qualify for Euro 2016, is hoping the combination of a training camp and matches against high-calibre opposition will stand his squad in good stead when they return to Malta for their opening World Cup qualifier on September 4.

The former Celtic boss said: “It is imperative we are ready for the start of the World Cup qualifiers in September.

“While we would rather be playing France or Italy in the European Championships, we must prepare properly against two top-class teams who will be highly motivated ahead of the finals.

“Games like these will provide a focus for our players and the coaching staff.

“They also give us a chance to show that we are capable of competing in such company, as we did in the recent qualifiers against Germany and Poland.

“The camp in Malta has the additional benefit of allowing us to familiarise ourselves with the facilities before our opening match in September.”

Scotland will also play the Czech Republic in the Letna Stadium on March 24 and Denmark at Hampden Park five days later, with Strachan picking a different squad for each match.

He said: “Selecting two separate squads allows us to maximise opportunities for players to gain international game time, while minimising the time spent away from their clubs at this crunch time of the season.

“It is important we give some of our younger players – and those who have maybe not featured as regularly as they would have hoped – some more international experience.

“The opportunity will be there for them to show that they can make that step up and put themselves into contention for the matches in the summer, games that will naturally be treated with the respect and preparation of full competitive fixtures.”

Scott Brown and Charlie Mulgrew, two Celtic players just back after lengthy injuries, could figure along with the likes of James Forrest, Kieran Tierney, Gary Mackay-Steven and Stuart Armstrong. Twenty-nine goal Leigh Griffiths is a certainty to be in one of the squads.
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