Sunday 4th September. 5PM. ITV 1
The Road to Russia starts this weekend and England head to Trnava to face what is arguably their toughest match of the qualifying campaign ahead. With a new manager at the helm, it should be a fascinating showdown.
Will England seal the points in style, like they did in Switzerland two years ago, or will the Euro 2016 hangover stop the Three Lions in their track? Whatever happens, it should be a cracking watch, and we’ll be hoping to cap it with some Sunday night winnings too.
Come on England!
Can Slovakia Frustrate England… Again
It hasn’t been long since Slovakia last faced England, following that 0-0 draw in the final group game in France, and manager Jan Kozak will be hoping to channel those energies to kickstart their campaign with another positive result here.
Slovakia have made changes, with familiar faces like Miroslav Stoch and Vladamir Weiss dropping out. However, the resilient hosts can still call upon experienced captain Martin Skrtel in the bid to keep England at bay once more.
The home side could pose more of an attacking threat in Trnava, especially if creative star Marek Hamsik can stamp his authority on the battle. Meanwhile, Robert Mak and co. will be eager to punish England should the Three Lions make any mistakes.
Slovakia certainly won’t make it easy for England, especially as only one team qualifies automatically for the World Cup. Expect a battling performance from the hosts.
Can Big Sam Start Tenure With A Win?
It’s a new dawn for the England team, but Sam Allardyce has elected to trust the majority of Euro 2016 flops to bounce back in style. Not only has he stuck with many of the same players, but Wayne Rooney has been picked as captain in what will be the players final two years at international level.
Big Sam’s main switch has been to reintroduce width. Theo Walcott has been recalled while there is also a first call-up for West Ham Michail Antonio. That has meant an omission for Ross Barkley while some have been surprised that Mark Noble didn’t finally gain recognition.
Allardyce has shown a clear understanding of the task at hand, not least the difficult nature of this first match. However, the failed attempt for Steven N’Zonzi suggests that the new England boss will be eager to implement his own ideas as quickly as possible.
Public perceptions of the England team are at a low right now while many are already waiting to jump on Allardyce’s back. Three points on Sunday would go a long way to building bridges. Let’s hope the boys can do it.
Slovakia v England Betting
Even on home soil, Slovakia are considered 3/1 underdogs against England, who are Evens at Bet365. Alternatively, the draw can be backed at 11/5.
The hosts will be aiming to keep things tight while Allardyce will want his men to avoid any defensive sloppiness too. The first games always have a potential to be a little slow, and we expect this one could follow suit.
There could well be goals, but we don’t think there will be many. England would certainly settle for a 1-0 victory, but a 0-0 or 1-1 could be in the pipeline. With this in mind, we’re backing the under 2.0 goal line.
Of all the England players, Raheem Sterling was the one that needed a big start to 2016-17, and he has got it. After a torrid summer, he is now playing with huge confidence at club level under Pep Guardiola. Hopefully, he’ll bring that form back into the national side too.
Allardyce’s team selection would suggest width will be key. We’re backing the Manchester City man to pop up with the first goal. Being the first game, though, you can never predict the starting XI with conviction. Wait for the line-ups before staking.