WILL DYER (@w2Dyer) backed a winner in England’s encounter with Malta on Saturday. Can he repeat the feat when England travel to Ljubljana on Tuesday night?
Slovenia v England | Tuesday 19:45 | ITV 1
England haven’t lost a tournament qualifier since the 1-0 reverse to Ukraine in Dnipropetrovsk in 2009. That’s 32 games ago and more importantly it’s now 14 consecutive wins in qualifying matches.
So to see them chalked up as 4/6 shots against a Slovenia team that they’ve beaten four times in the last seven years, twice in qualification for the Euros, once at the World Cup in South Africa and once in a friendly is a little surprising.
Slovenia caused the Three Lions problems in Ljubljana in June 2015, they were very efficient on the break, but two world class goals from Jack Wilshere and a late Wayne Rooney goal saved England’s blushes.
Malta defended stoutly against England on Saturday and goalkeeper Andrew Hogg had a very good game. England played below par but, as Glenn Hoddle keeps repeating, I think they are better suited to playing on the counter; so a team like Slovenia who will actually get forward could be easier to score against.
Milivoje Novakovic scored against England last year but he’s now 37-years-old. Srecko Katanec instead opted for Josip Ilicic and Roman Bezjak up front against Slovakia on Saturday and, although neither scored, they won the game 1-0 and had the better of the chances.
Novakovic has scored 31 goals in 78 games for his country and returned to Maribor this season after a few years in Japan. After him the next most goals in the squad for this fixture come from Bostjan Cesar, the 34-year-old Chievo centre-half.
Goals tend to be a problem for the Slovenians. Defensively they are pretty robust, they’ve only conceded three or more goals in three of their last 32 games; however, two of those occasions were against England, the other Switzerland.
At the other end of the pitch they’ve struggled in recent games; nine goals scored in their last 11 games in all competitions, including just two scored against San Marino.
Jan Oblak and Bojan Jokic are both top players plying their trade in La Liga and there are plenty of other decent names around in this squad but getting a result against England still looks a step too far for them.
England have had to make further changes to the squad due to injuries. Tom Heaton and Ryan Bertrand are replaced by Jordan Pickford and Kieran Gibbs. The latter has wasted his career at Arsenal and is now 27 years-old.
Rooney is finally dropped after the fans made their opinions quite clear at Wembley on Saturday and he had another poor game. It won’t be hard to replace him. Jordan Henderson had a very good game and Marcus Rashford and Daniel Sturridge both looked lively.
Dele Alli should have had a hat-trick too. In summary, it was more poor finishing than anything else that enabled Malta to hold England to 2-0.
In the last meeting between Slovenia and England, the visitors had 15 shots to the hosts three. England lacked concentration that day but I expect to see a better defensive display from the Three Lions this time around and England have now kept six consecutive clean sheets in qualifiers.
I’m not normally one for backing odds-on away shots but England look a very solid bet here. I’ll happily back them to pick up all three points for Southgate again at 4/6 with Skybet but I’ll also back them in the Correct Score group market.
England to win 2-0 or 3-0 is 18/5 at BetVictor. It’s a price I like. If you split your stakes on 2-0 and 3-0 separately you would be doing better if England won 3-0 but worse compared to this combined market if England won 2-0.
I feel 2-0 is the most likely result but it’s nice to have that security. Considering England have scored three times in both of the most recent head to heads. It also means that you can cover both scores and still add this selection in a multiple with other International games on Tuesday night.