SHAUN Maloney admits Scotland are already drinking in last-chance saloon as far as World Cup qualification is concerned.
The Scots face Wales at Hampden Park tonight, rock bottom of their group after four matches and eight points behind early pace-setters Belgium and Croatia.
With a tough trip to Serbia to come on Tuesday, anything less than three points against the Welsh would all-but kill off their dream of reaching Brazil 2014.
Gary Caldwell is in line to captain the Scots tonight, with James McArthur also expected to feature.
And Maloney called on his colleagues to help new boss Gordon Strachan hit the ground running in his first competitive game as national boss.
“It’s a massive game for us against Wales, and then just as big a test going to Serbia the following Tuesday so it’ll be a tough few days ahead,” Maloney told the Evening Post.
“We’ve only had one friendly under the new manager, so everyone is still trying to do as much as they can, both for their clubs and in Scotland training, to try to catch his eye.
“It’s obviously a fresh start for us under the new manager, and hopefully it’ll help us to improve the results.
“The way we’ve started in the group means we have to get some positive results as quickly as possible.
“Ideally that will start against Wales, and give us something positive to take into the second game.”
Scotland’s chances will rest on how they handle in-form Gareth Bale, who scored both goals in the corresponding fixture in Cardiff including a penalty won after he was fouled in the box by Maloney.
“He’s obviously their biggest threat, and on the night we’ll have to deal with him as well as we possibly can,” added the Latics forward.
Elsewhere, James McCarthy and Ireland face a tough trip to Sweden knowing a win would see them leapfrog their opponents into second spot in Group C behind Germany.
Further afield, Franco di Santo is hoping to make his competitive debut for Argentina against Venezuela, Jean Beausejour’s Chile desperately need a win in Peru, while Maynor Figueroa and Roger Espinoza are expected to feature as Honduras entertain Mexico.
Meanwhile Latics will wear their third-choice red kit for next month’s FA Cup semi-final against Millwall, whose first-choice dark blue shirt clashes with Wigan’s first and second-choice colours.
Wigan have only wore red once this term – the 3-0 defeat at Newcastle in December when Figueroa was sent off in the early stages.