Scotland are 40th in the world rankings – 20 places above tonight’s hosts, who lost 2-0 at Hampden in September.
But Alex McLeish’s side have lost seven of their past nine games, winning two, and are looking to avoid a fourth consecutive defeat away from home.
Albania are in an almost identical position, having lost seven of their past 10 matches, winning two, but are seeking a third home clean sheet in a row.
There’s more build-up to the game starting now on BBC Radio Scotland MW.
Analysis comes from former Scotland striker Steven Thompson and former Dundee United and Falkirk manager Peter Houston.
Match commentary is provided by Liam McLeod.
Scotland have suffered nine call-offs since Alex McLeish announced his squad and is missing seven of the players who played their last competitive fixture, the 2-1 defeat in Israel.
Indeed, only goalkeeper Allan McGregor, left-back Andy Robertson and midfielder Callum McGregor retain their place from that side.
The odd man out is Johnny Russell, the forward being dropped to the bench despite being one of the few to have impressed.
Captain Robertson, Callum McGregor, fellow midfielder Stuart Armstrong, winger James Forrest and centre-half Scott McKenna retain their places from Scotland’s last fixture, the 3-1 friendly defeat by Portugal.
Sheffield Wednesday striker Steven Fletcher ends a 13-month absence from the Scotland team, while the aforementioned David Bates is handed his first cap on his first call-up to the squad after his move to Hamburg from Rangers.
Two players from the Scottish Premiership are vying to be flying down the wing for Albania tonight.
Eros Grezda missed his country’s 2-0 defeat at Hampden in September as he recovered from the injury that plagued him since his summer transfer to Rangers.
Now, having scored his first two Rangers goals in the 7-1 win over Motherwell at the weekend, he faces a late fitness test after having trained separately from the rest of the squad this week.
Livingston’s Egli Kaja received a late call-up only weeks after the uncapped 21-year-old on-loan from AFC Wimbledon was told by his agent that coach Christian Panucci did not rate him after his introduction to the international squad in October.
Former Rangers and Hamilton midfielderQuote Message: I think maybe the pressure might be off because there are so many call-offs and people are maybe not expecting too much from Scotland. Do they still have enough within that squad to win in Albania? Of course, they have
I think maybe the pressure might be off because there are so many call-offs and people are maybe not expecting too much from Scotland. Do they still have enough within that squad to win in Albania? Of course, they have
BBC Scotland summariser
There is clearly a problem of why some players don’t want to be considered, but that is for further down the line and Alex has also been unlucky with injuries.
This is as low as I can remember. I think there is a real lethargy in the whole country about the national team.
If we can’t top a three-country group with Albania and Israel in it, where are we going? We are going massively backwards and it would be embarrassing.
Albania ranked 60 in the world, Israel 91. If we don’t come out of this group, pull the shutters down.
Former Scotland striker on SportsoundQuote Message: He’s not got his problems to seek, Alex. I still think we’ll qualify, but it’s becoming more pressurised and it’s not going to be easy tonight. If we get a point, I think we’ll go and beat Israel on Tuesday, but it would be a disaster if we didn’t get promoted from this group
He’s not got his problems to seek, Alex. I still think we’ll qualify, but it’s becoming more pressurised and it’s not going to be easy tonight. If we get a point, I think we’ll go and beat Israel on Tuesday, but it would be a disaster if we didn’t get promoted from this group
I think this game tonight is one of the most pressurised that Scotland have played in all the years I’ve been following them.
We are on the abyss here. If Scotland don’t get a win and a draw in these two games, we will drop into the bottom level alongside countries like San Marino and Liechtenstein.
There is nowhere else to go. This is the bottoming out of Scotland’s existence.
The team that played the first international match in world football has gone to the very depths of despair if we don’t get through these two games.
So what about those prophets of doom?
Coming up next…
Allan Crozier:I think it’s a very attack-minded line-up from McLeish tonight. I have to take my hat off to him for going for it tonight – and why not? We have a huge chance to win both these games and are capable of it too.
Stuart Gill: Decent attacking team!
A Dunlop: Good players, should be well capable. Get in there
Daryl Doyle: If that team can’t get six points this week then we might as well pack it in for good.
The Scotland fans in Tirana have been belying some of the doomsday scenarios being highlighted by BBC pundits (more of that to come shortly).
This lot seem to be paying homage to my colleague, Chick Young, as well as former Scotland defender Steven Pressley for some reason!
Former Celtic striker Scott McDonald tells BBC Sportsound: “Surely Callum Paterson is the one who slots right in there at right-back. I don’t think it is too much of a gamble playing a guy in the position he has played a lot of his career at right-back. He brings physicality, he brings energy as well in terms of the support. I think that’s huge as well in terms of the height factor and set-pieces.
“Playing three inexperienced centre-halves in a back three that’s proven vulnerable over this campaign already – why go there again? These guys play in a back four week-in, week out. It would be stupid to go to a back three.”
David Bates, the centre-half who left Rangers in the summer to join Hamburg in Germany’s second tier, is handed his Scotland debut by Alex McLeish.
We still await news of the formation.
But it looks like Callum Paterson, who has been playing in a forward role for Cardiff City, will be utilised in the right-back role he started at with Hearts.
Let’s make Scotland’s Nations League prospects more simple. Here are all the possible permutations from Scotland’s two remaining Nations League fixtures.
Copyright: BBC Sport
When Scotland were drawn with Albania and Israel – two lower-ranked sides – in the top section of the Nations League’s League C, there was plenty of optimism.
“Our best route to the Euro 2020 finals,” they said.
Suddenly, after one win and one defeat, the quick-fire format has Scotland playing catch-up and pressure mounting on head coach Alex McLeish.
A squad hit by an unprecedented number of injury call-offs and no-shows are tonight in Albania, where – depending on the result – they could be on the brink of promotion or on the relegation precipice.
Stay with us for the build-up, live commentary and reaction.