Gareth Southgate can make it two wins from two as interim boss of England when the Three Lions travel to Ljubljana to take on Slovenia in their third World Cup 2018 qualifying fixture (7.45pm Tuesday on ITV1).
The former Middlesbrough manager got his tenure in charge of England off to an ideal start on Saturday evening, when his side ran out 2-0 winners against Malta at Wembley. The scoreline was not as large as many were expecting, though. Scotland, after all, had thrashed the Maltese 5-1 away from home last month. England again flattered to deceive in front of their own supporters. There were a handful of positives for Southgate to take from his side’s performance, including a fine display by Jordan Henderson (pictured) in the centre of midfield, but the 46-year-old will probably need to oversee an improvement as he aims to convince the Football Association that he is the right man to lead the national team on a permanent basis. Southgate does still head the betting for England’s next manager.
Slovenia have amassed four points from their opening two fixtures in their bid to reach the World Cup in Russia in two years’ time. A 2-2 draw in Lithuania was secured in September thanks to Bostjan Cesar’s dramatic strike in the third minute of second-half stoppage time, before Srecko Katanec’s men defeated Slovakia by a goal to nil on Saturday evening. That was a huge win for Slovenia, who are looking to qualify for the biggest international tournament on the planet for the third time following their participation in Japan and South Korea in 2002 and South Africa in 2010. A positive result against England would be another statement of intent as they attempt to finish in second spot and qualify for the play-offs.
England captain Wayne Rooney was booed by a section of supporters at Wembley at the weekend, with the Manchester United man’s form at both club and international level having dipped dramatically in the last two years or so. It will be interesting to see whether Southgate – who publicly backed Rooney in the aftermath of the game – will keep faith with the 30-year-old when it comes to picking his team to face Slovenia, with many now calling for England’s all-time record goalscorer to be dropped to the substitutes’ bench. Danny Rose is likely to start ahead of Ryan Bertrand at left-back, while Marcus Rashford is also pushing for a place in the XI following an impressive cameo against Malta.
Slovenia’s 25-man squad for Tuesday’s clash at the Stozice Stadium contains 10 players currently plying their trade in Europe’s five major leagues, including Atletico Madrid goalkeeper Jan Oblak, Fiorentina playmaker Josip Ilicic, Villarreal defender Bojan Jokic, Bayer Leverkusen midfielder Kevin Kampl and Chievo pair Valter Birsa and Cesar.
Katanec lined his team up in a 4-4-2 formation with a diamond in midfield in the aforementioned 1-0 victory over Slovakia on Saturday and is likely to stick with the same configuration this midweek, when they will probably cede possession and attempt to make themselves difficult to play through against their more illustrious opponents.
The conclusion of this preview is that it is worth backing England, who are 4/6 with the bookies to win this, to pick up another victory on Tuesday night. The Three Lions may have not been in sparkling form so far in the qualifying campaign but they still have enough quality across the pitch to make it nine points for the first nine available against a decent side, who nevertheless failed to reach this summer’s 24-team European Championship. A 2-0 away victory is our betting tip selection on the correct score market, with Daniel Sturridge a good choice to net the first goal of the game.
It is also worth pointing out that there is an interesting free bets’ offer from one of the major bookmakers. The gist of it is that England are available at enhanced odds of 10/1 to win this match for a fiver bet for new customers. Full details of the offer can be found on our JustBookies’ home page. Here are our betting tips: