WILL DYER (@w2Dyer) makes his International return. Here he previews Big Sam’s first game as England manager as the Three Lions travel to Slovakia for a World Cup Qualifier.
Slovakia v England Tips | Sunday 17:00 | ITV 1
Slovakia host England in the relatively small town of Trnava on Sunday in the opening World Cup qualifier for the road to Russia 2018. It’s also Sam Allardyce’s first game as England manager.
This is arguably England’s toughest of all 10 of their group games. Slovakia are ranked 24th in the world and are the only other nation in this group to have qualified for a major tournament since Scotland’s appearance at the 1998 World Cup.
Many would consider Scotland away as England’s toughest match simply due to the fierce rivalry but in reality England are unbeaten in their last six trips north of the border, winning five of those matches.
The Three Lions met Slovakia in the group stage of Euro 2016 just under three months ago with the game finishing goalless. However, England dominated that game with 28 shots on goal to the Falcons’ four.
Slovakia’s all-time top-scorer Robert Vittek misses the game through injury which means we are likely to see either Adam Nemec or Michal Duris. In truth though it’s the midfield does a lot of the goal-scoring for the team.
Marek Hamsik, Miroslav Stoch, Ondrej Duda, Vladimir Weiss, Juraj Kucka and Robert Mak are classy players that also provide the bulk of the goals for the team. Between them they have amassed 297 caps and scored 44 goals.
The 0-0 draw at Euro 2016 was largely down to some dogged defending from Jan Durica and Martin Skrtel at the centre of defence. The latter of which knows each and every attacking England player’s game all too well from his time at Liverpool.
When it comes to the betting on this game it’s one-way traffic for me. To be able to back England to win at odds-against when they’ve won 16 of their last 20 major tournament qualifiers and not lost a single one seems far too generous to me.
Of course this is Big Sam’s first game as England manager and he will have only had three or four training sessions with his squad but he has chosen form players in Michail Antonio and Danny Drinkwater and also has the luxury of Luke Shaw returning to the fray and Raheem Sterling looking a player reborn at Manchester City.
The players have come out in the press and spoken of a confidence in the dressing room and are eager to kick-start this new era with a win.
Slovakia had an impressive Euro 2016 qualifying campaign posting a W7-D1-L2 record which included a home win over reigning champions Spain and ended up finishing second in their group.
Jan Kozak remains at the helm and rightly so with his W19-D8-L7 record as Slovakia head coach since 2013.
Slovakia looked very dangerous against Russia at Euro 2016 but they were outclassed by Germany in the Round of 16 when playing a more adventurous formation.
Without Vittek he could opt for a 4-3-3 formation; similar to the one he sent out against Die Mannschaft but at Euro 2016 Kozak packed the midfield and played Ondrej Duda up front when meeting England.
Duda has just made the switch from Legia Warsaw to Hertha Berlin but he’s really a midfielder. The pressure is not on Slovakia to win like it was against Germany so expect a 4-5-1 again.
I can’t get away from the stats on England’s qualifying campaigns. We are all completely used to terrible tournament performances but there’s no better nation in World football at going to places like Trnava and bagging a win. At 21/20 with Betway it’s screaming to be backed.
Slovakia v England – England to win (21/20 Betway)
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