Former Scotland striker Kevin Gallacher feels the Dublin showdown with the Republic of Ireland will go a long way to deciding who makes it to the European Championships.
Both nations are still in the hunt for automatic qualification for France next summer, even though Poland and Germany currently fill the top two places in Group D.
But Gallacher believes any loser at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday will be playing catch-up as far as qualification is concerned.
“It’s such a big game for both nations and I feel both will think they have to win it to get that third place and a play-off spot,” said Gallacher, who won 53 caps for Scotland between 1988 and 2001.
“A draw is not a bad result for Scotland because they would still be fighting it out.
“The next game after Ireland is against Georgia in September and to get three points from both those two matches would put Scotland in a very strong position.
“These two games could put Scotland top of the group and that would be a fantastic achievement going into the Germany and Poland games.
“Manager Gordon Strachan (right) has created a buzz in the country during this qualifying campaign and a win on Saturday would set them apart from Ireland for that top-three finish.”
Shaun Maloney’s stunning strike settled the first meeting between the two sides in Scotland’s favour at Celtic Park last November.
It was a breathless contest with the winner coming from a rehearsed set-piece routine and Gallacher says he expects a similar affair in Dublin this weekend.
“It’s like a club derby when form goes out of the window,” said Gallacher.
“It’s so close and because the two managers know the players on the other side so well it makes the game even tighter.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if a set-piece decided the game just like it did in Glasgow.”
Scotland warmed up for Dublin with a 1-0 victory over Qatar at Easter Road last Friday and Gallagher feels that run-out was essential to remove the players’ rust.
“They had not played for a few weeks and the fitness levels would have been a concern before the Ireland game,” Gallacher said.
“So it was good to have the Qatar game and for Scotland to carry on their winning ways.”