England seek to maintain their perfect record in Euro 2016 qualifying when they travel east to take on Slovenia in Ljubljana on Sunday (17:00 BST, live on ITV1).
England are unbeaten in nine internationals since their early elimination from last summer’s World Cup in Brazil. They top Euro 2016 qualification Group E with 15 points from an unblemished record of five wins from five, with 15 goals scored and just one conceded.
Roy Hodgson’s side played out a thoroughly unentertaining 0-0 friendly draw with the Republic of Ireland in Dublin last weekend. They were slow and uninspiring in much of their play and barely troubled the Ireland goal, with a tame Wayne Rooney (pictured) free-kick representing their only effort on target. Their hosts mustered little better in an uneventful encounter.
Hodgson made it clear in his post-match interviews that he was disappointed with his side’s performance and will hope for much better on Sunday. In truth, it would not be entirely surprising if England did perform with similar lethargy given that their place at Euro 2016 is virtually assured and that these June fixtures come at the end of a long and hard season.
Raheem Sterling is set to retain his place in the starting XI despite his below-par performance against Ireland but there could be one or two changes elsewhere in the team. Theo Walcott will hope to start following a strong conclusion to the campaign with Arsenal, while reports suggest that Fabian Delph could be drafted into the centre of midfield.
Daniel Sturridge (hip) and Leighton Baines (ankle) missed out on Hodgson’s squad through injury, while Harry Kane is currently with the under-21 squad in preparation for the European U21 Championship in the Czech Republic. There look to be no injury concerns amongst those who did join up with the group.
Slovenia come into the match on the back of three wins and four defeats in their seven matches since last summer. Their victories all came in competitive fixtures, which means they sit second in Group E with nine points from three wins and two defeats.
Sreko Katanec’s side lost 1-0 away to Qatar in a friendly in Doha last weekend. He rested a number of his regular starters for the fixture and their absence was evident in a below-par performance. Goalkeeper Jan Oblak was called into fairly regular action, particularly in the first half, and it was only in the closing stages that Slovenia finally mustered some efforts on target.
Katanec took charge of the national team for a second time at the start of 2013, having led Slovenia to qualification for Euro 2000 and the 2002 World Cup during his first stint as head coach. While he has lost seven of the nine friendlies he has presided over since returning, his record of seven wins from 11 World-Cup and Euro-2016 qualifiers is far more impressive.
Every one of Slovenia’s last seven victories has been achieved in conjunction with a clean sheet. They have two highly capable goalkeepers in Oblak and Samir Handanovic, which allied to a cautious, counter-attacking style has allowed them to gain good points from competitive fixtures. They have a solid mix of energy and inventiveness in attack.
Dominic Maroh was left out of the squad for Slovenia’s June fixtures as they were unable to negotiate his early release from club duties in order to join up with the group in time for the start of their training camp. Tim Matavz (knee) is the only injury absentee.
Slovenia vs England Betting Tips Verdict
Two goals from Danny Welbeck and a Wayne Rooney penalty led England to a 3-1 victory when these sides met at Wembley last November. The Three Lions also emerged victorious from the other two previous meetings between the sides, winning 1-0 in a friendly at Wembley in 2009 and 1-0 once again during the group stage of the 2010 World Cup.
England came away from Switzerland with a 2-0 victory on the opening day of the qualification campaign and will be fairly confident of winning once more on Sunday against another of the sides battling for second. After the criticism that came their way in the wake of the draw with Ireland, Hodgson and his players will be keen to make amends in Ljubljana.
Slovenia have not drawn a single one of their 20 matches since Katanec’s reappointment and have won five of their last six matches on home soil, including a 1-0 victory over a higher-ranked Switzerland side during the Euro 2016 qualification process. They will most likely seek to sit back, soak up pressure and strike at speed on the counter-attack.
We expect this to be a tight match with few goals. A narrow England victory is the most likely result.
- Back England to win @ best odds of 10/11 with William Hill.
- Slovenia have not conceded a first-half goal in any of their last six competitive fixtures on home soil. They will again be keen not to give away an early advantage on Sunday and England are therefore likely to struggle to make breakthrough during the first half. Back England’s first goal to come in the second half (in the ‘half of first England goal’ market) @ best odds of 2/1 with William Hill.