England head into their penultimate home games knowing that only a win will see them qualify for Russia 2018. However, a loss wouldn’t be too bad as that result would still see Gareth Southgate’s side still on top with one game remaining (but sooner rather than later eh?)
Thoughts ahead of the game
The Three Lions are heavy favourites to win this match, especially as it’s a home fixture. Whilst I predict a fairly comfortable win for the home side, I wouldn’t rule out Slovenia to cause a scare.
I’m confident that England can get the job done tomorrow evening and if they do so, it’ll allow them to field an experimental line-up in their final group game.
Having not lost a qualifier since 2009 (a 1-0 away loss to Ukraine), I predict the Three Lions to win this game and their next without too much trouble.
What do I expect from Slovenia? Well, given that they’re unlikely to qualify (games against bottom sides are disregarded when it comes to ranking second placed sides), I’d expect them to throw the kitchen sink at England.
Tottenham Hotspur midfielder Harry Winks has been called up to the squad- a decision which raised eyebrows. He had originally been pencilled in to be with the Under-21 squad, but injuries to Fabian Delph and Phil Jones saw his inclusion.
The likes of Daniel Sturridge, Jordan Henderson, and Michael Keane missed training and took part in a recovery session, but I expect them to have a part to play in some degree.
Gareth Southgate has been talking with the media ahead of tomorrows “crunch” match against Slovenia and had been talking about Harry Kane’s role as captain. Whilst he says that he is “invaluable” to the side, he is yet to confirm whether Kane will be given the role on a full-time basis, although it has been confirmed that Kane will captain Slovenia.
Southgate has also been talking about the ban that was handed to Dele Alli, saying that it’s a “fair outcome”, and has discussed his responsibilities with the midfielder. Kane chipped in by saying that his discipline will improve over time as he gets older.
On the inclusion of midfielder Harry Winks, Southgate voiced that another midfielder was vital following the dropping out of Fabian Delph due to injury.
Southgate also mentioned that the fact that everyone is fighting for places, shows that the performance level is raised. I would add to that by saying the competition for places is healthy as it shows that everyone wants to be playing a part (but we know that not EVERYONE’s place is certain). He also said that can’t keep everyone happy. We all know that this is impossible in a competitive environment.
The England manager is confident, but also cautious as he knows that Slovenia will also be vying for a win to keep alive their slim qualification chances.
Harry Kane has also been talking to the media and has implied that potentially being made permanent captain won’t faze him as he’ll still be doing what he does best (scoring and helping the team). That’s the sort of attitude I like in a player. I like that he’ll still be the “same old Harry Kane” (with a bit of a difference) even if he is made captain on a permanent basis.
So, that’s my lot. Who do you think will start? Who’ll be most likely to start? (At the time of writing, Jack Butland was the favourite to start based on a Sky Sports poll). For me, I’d say Southgate would probably overlook Joe Harts performances and start him. What will the score be? Do you think England can get the job done on Thursday, or will they need the final (v Lithuania on Sunday) match to rubber stamp their qualification? Let us know @OfficialTFF.