THE big question surrounding Scotland this week is this: will we get second place?

I hope they will. But I have got a feeling that we won’t unfortunately.

The game against Slovakia tonight is the harder of the two matches we face and if we can win that one then I would fancy our chances of beating Slovenia.

I don’t think we will do it. Hopefully I am totally wrong because I hate being negative when it comes to Scotland.

But we are playing against a dangerous side, a side that are well organised. We can beat them, but I’m not sure that we will.

Slovakia easily beat us 3-0 the last time. I know we were in a different place as a squad and a team, but they are a good side and they have the prize in their sights as Scotland.

I have spoken about the defence for a while and when teams come at us with pace I am not sure we can cope. For that reason, I think it will be a draw tonight.

And that won’t be good enough for Gordon Strachan. Honestly, I don’t think we will beat them. We all want to be in Russia, but I fear that we won’t get the chance unfortunately.

Scotland are going into this double-header on the back of wins over Lithuania and Malta and they have a bit of confidence. But this is a different test, and a more difficult one.

The performance and the point against England gave everyone a real boost but that Harry Kane goal could come back to haunt us.

If we had held on for the win that day, we were flying. But we didn’t get it and now we need two huge showings and results in the next couple of days.

I think the confidence is there in the squad. The manager will have instilled that in them and they will be desperate to get out there at Hampden.

If we don’t win, we have had it. It is win or bust for Scotland.

The players will know that and there will be some that will think this could be their final chance to play at a major finals for their country. That will inspire them, no doubt.

That is maybe the case for Scott Brown and losing him is a blow for Gordon. I know we have got plenty of options in midfield, but I am not sure we have anyone that plays that role the way that Scott does.

The team will certainly miss his presence in the middle of the park and his leadership qualities are important as well.

He is a big influence in the dressing room and can rally people around him. But the manager won’t have to try too hard to get people going because of the importance of the game.

Scott and Stuart Armstrong are a big part of the side so not having them there is far from ideal for Gordon.

But you look at the likes of John McGinn and Callum McGregor coming in and they are on fire just now. I don’t think they will start, but I wouldn’t mind if they did.

It will take a huge team effort from Scotland. On our day, we can do it, of course we can.

But we are going in against a team that have the same huge chance that we do if they get the result that they are looking for.

The occasion and the crowd at Hampden won’t get to the Slovakian players. They know what they have to do and they will be just as confident and motivated as Scotland.

I don’t think there will be any fear factor for Gordon or the players. They know what is at stake and know what they have to do.

The mood in the camp seems good and there will be an excitement about the games coming up and the chance that the players have.

When you get a squad in that frame of mind, they generally go out there without fear.

We know we haven’t qualified for a finals for so long so nobody is going to be surprised if we don’t do it this time either.

But these lads will be saying to themselves that they have a chance to be the first Scotland team in 20 years to go to a championships. That is all the motivation they need.

It is different going into the game when there is nothing at stake and you don’t have anything to play for.

But that is not the case tonight and hopefully it won’t be the case when the team fly out to Slovenia for the final qualifier.

Scotland still have a chance to get to the play-offs, and as long as there is a chance there will be a buzz around the squad. Tonight, all the talking will stop and all the focus will be on the match.

Everybody in the team knows the job they have to do. It is 11 v 11 and you have got to be better than your opponent. If you do that, you can win the game.

It would be great if we could get a result at Hampden and set it up for a huge 90 minutes on Sunday. Hopefully, my fears are unfounded and Scotland still have a reason to be optimistic.