ROBERTO Martinez was unfailingly polite to his Scottish guests yesterday but he insists he will have no problem making himself unpopular when he next goes ‘home’ to Lanarkshire to meet the in-laws.

With the big match approaching, all talk of football has been banned in the Martinez household for the last few days between the Belgium manager, his wife Beth – who he me met during the season he spent at Motherwell in the early noughties – and her father Ray.

“We have put a ban on speaking about football – but I hope everyone is very upset when I come ‘home’,” said Martinez. “My wife is not a problem, it’s more my father-in-law Ray.”

Martinez said all the right things when it came to this new-look Scotland side and their new manager, but then he still remembers to his cost how it feels to be on the receiving end of the 55-year-old’s canny and pragmatic form of management.

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He still remembers to his cost how Clarke brought his West Brom side to Goodison Park on the occasion of his first home match as Everton manager in 2013 and strangled the life out of his team to escape with a goalless draw. The two men have met four times in total and is pretty much honours even.

“Steve is a gentleman of the game,” said Martinez yesterday. “He’s got a large of experience at big clubs.

“I faced him as an assistant of Kenny Dalglish at Liverpool, Gianfranco Zola at West Ham and Mourinho at Chelsea.

“He’s had a real mixture of styles and big personalities but he’s found his own way of working and has been very successful.

“I did suffer from his coaching at West Brom – we drew in my first game at Everton and I’ve always been a big admirer in the way he affects the players to do what they have to do for the team.”

Now the Belgium manager sees those same personality traits and impulses which served him so well in the club game transferring into the international game. You can rest assured that the fastidious Martinez and his backroom team have been poring over the tapes of Cyprus.

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“His know-how, getting into a clear strategy, is what I’ve seen with Scotland,” said Martinez. “It’s going to be a competitive, well-structured team and we’re going to see it grow. I’m sure of that.”

Martinez isn’t daft – even as he showered Scotland in compliments he was also trying to educate his own fans. He knows that the absurdly-simple 4-0 triumph in that friendly at Hampden Park back in September, not to mention our humiliating 3-0 reverse to Kazakhstan, paint a false picture of what Scotland have to offer.

“It will be completely different to that match in September,” said the Spaniard. “They’re not going to be trying things that they did in the friendly.

“They were playing in a back five then and trying to play from the back,” he added. “We’re going to see a team building on what they did against Cyprus, with huge pace in the side. This is a talented group of players, very dynamic and they will defend very well.”

Complacency could be the biggest threat for a Belgium side who haven’t lost a competitive home match for nine years. Or at least it might be if this wasn’t such a driven, meticulous group of players who know that points are up for grabs.

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Forget the social media posting yesterday which showed Michy Batshuayi and Dries Mertens larking about with bagpipes and debating whether to be ‘true Scotsmen’ under a kilt, this is a group which wants to win things after falling short at both the World Cup and the Euros. Being ranked the No 1 team in the world doesn’t quite make up for it.

“If you asked me [about complacency] a year ago, maybe,” said Martinez. “But with the standards the players have set in the camp, that doesn’t happen. Nobody takes for granted being in the team. I don’t think that’s a tough job for me at all.”

Scotland fans looking for straws to clutch at could also consider the potential distraction of star man Eden Hazard’s £90m (plus significant add-ons) transfer to Real Madrid. On the other hand, maybe that just means the little wizard will be relaxed and firing after finally securing his dream move.

“This is the time of year it happens,” said a relaxed Martinez. “It’s not a different situation – it’s a natural moment where some players are going to move.

“There’s an understanding where you can share the thoughts, how you could settle into a new league and how the player can grow into a new chapter.”

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There is one last member of the Scottish connection in this Belgium backroom team, of course, assistant coach Shaun Maloney. Martinez refutes the fact that the former Celtic youth team coach is a spy in the camp.

“He helps against any opposition,” said Martinez. “He’s been a big influence in our way of working. He’s a very important person in Belgian football –his work is very strong whoever we’re against. We share a lot of players in the same league, so there are not open secrets.”

A storm was gathering in the Brussels area all afternoon yesterday, a deluge finally kicking off some half an hour into Belgium’s training session. Scotland’s first job tonight will be making sure that the floodgates refuse to open.

Belgium (3-4-3, probable): Courtois; Alderweireld, Kompany, Vertonghen; Castagne, De Bruyne, Witsel, T Hazard; Mertens, Lukaku, Hazard.