Preview: Johnny Russell and Scotland set to host Albania in UEFA Nations League opener

Scotland vs. Albania
UEFA Nations League | Group C1
Monday, Sept. 10 | 1:45 p.m. CT | ESPN+
Hampden Park | Glasgow Scotland

Johnny Russell and the Scotland Men’s National Team will kick off their inaugural UEFA Nations League campaign on Monday against Albania at Hampden Park in Glasgow. The match will kick off at 1:45 p.m. CT and stream live on ESPN+, giving fans in the United States an opportunity to see the Sporting KC forward represent his country.

Russell earned his sixth career cap in Friday’s friendly defeat to world No. 2-ranked Belgium at Hampden Park. The 28-year-old came off the bench in the second half and made a strong impression during his 22-minute cameo, nearly grabbing a goal back for the hosts in the late stages. Head coach Alex McLeish’s men were largely outclassed by Belgium throughout the contest, but Monday’s opponent figures to be a better matchup for a Scotland side hoping to make a winning start in the inaugural 2018-19 UEFA Nations League.

No. 40 in the latest FIFA rankings, Scotland is set to welcome a 58th-ranked Albania team that made its European Championship debut at UEFA Euro 2016 in France. This will be the second fixture played in Group C1, as Albania beat Israel 1-0 on Friday behind Taulant Xhaka’s game-winner. Scotland, Albania and Israel will square off in a double-round-robin, home-and-away format between now and November, with the first-place finisher clinching promotion to UEFA Nations League B in 2020-21 and the last-place team dropping to League D.

The UEFA Nations League will be held every two years and features all 55 European national teams divided into four divisions and split into four groups, with most games to be played this fall.

Russell, seeking his seventh senior international appearance and his third since joining Sporting KC in January, is one of three forwards listed on Scotland’s squad. Celtic striker Leigh Griffiths started in Friday’s friendly and was replaced at halftime by fellow forward Steven Naismith, who plies is club trade at Hearts. Russell is the only member of Scotland’s roster to play club soccer outside of Great Britain.

Following Tuesday’s clash, Russell will return to Kansas City ahead of Sporting KC’s road trip to the San Jose Earthquakes on Saturday. He leads Sporting KC in both goals and assists with 10 each across all competitions.

Scotland Roster

Goalkeepers: Jordan Archer (Millwall), Craig Gordon (Celtic), Allan McGregor (Rangers)

Defenders:  Charlie Mulgrew (Blackburn Rovers), Stephen O'Donnell (Kilmarnock), Andy Robertson (Liverpool), Graeme Shinnie (Aberdeen), John Souttar (Heart of Midlothian), Kieran Tierney (Celtic)

Midfielders: Stuart Armstrong (Southampton), James Forrest (Celtic), Ryan Fraser (Bournemouth), Ryan Jack (Rangers), Kevin McDonald (Fulham), John McGinn (Aston Villa), Callum McGregor (Celtic), Scott McTominay (Manchester United), Callum Paterson (Cardiff City), Robert Snodgrass (West Ham United)

Forwards: Leigh Griffiths (Celtic), Steven Naismith (Hearts), Johnny Russell (Sporting Kansas City)