Wednesday 4th September. 7:45PM. ITV
The Road to Russia is reaching its most exciting stages, especially in Group F as Wembley prepares to take centre stage for what is likely to be the group decider between England and Slovakia.
Can England finally put in an impressive display under the current manager, or will the visitors condemn the hosts to even more misery. While Friday’s trip to Malta wasn’t enjoyable, we did pick up a couple of winners too.
More of the same here would suit us fine.
England Edging Towards World Cup
Gareth Southgate’s men were far from impressive in Malta and were massively flattered by the 4-0 scoreline following three goals, but those three points have put the Three Lions one step closer to sealing a spot in Russia. A win at Wembley on Monday would virtually guarantee it.
While the ideas have looked lacking at time, six clean sheets in seven qualifiers gives the hosts a solid platform to build upon. With Harry Kane now finding his feet in international football too, England can be confident about finding a way through a tough Slovakian side.
Southgate still has plenty of quality at his disposal, but the Wembley crowd could turn if things don’t start well. An early breakthrough would make life a lot easier for the Three Lions but, in truth, even a draw would be fine Slovakia are the only danger in the race to top Group F.
This is a potential banana skin for England, but is a test that they should come through. Let’s just hope they can put in a better performance too.
Slovakia Look To Leapfrog Lions
After picking up five wins in seven matches, Slovakia are well on course to grab at least a play-off spot. However, a shock win against England would see them jump above the leaders to take pole position in the bid for automatic qualification. Given that they have nothing to lose, Jan Kozak’s men could be a particularly dangerous proposition.
The visitors are blessed with some quality players with Marek Hamsik, Martin Skrtel, and Vladamir Weiss leading the list of names that will ring familiar to English fans. It was the skipper’s sending off that opened the door for England to grab the win in Sam Allardyce’s one game as manager, but a more disciplined performance at Wembley could see them frustrate the hosts much like they did at Euro 2016.
Slovakia aren’t noted for scoring goals, but they boast just one fewer than England this campaign. The mature nature of a 1-0 win over Slovenia on Friday will be the most pleasing factor for Kozak, however, while this is arguably the best time to make a visit to London given the home side’s current problems.
The away side will be considered underdogs for a reason, but you’d rule them out at your peril.
England v Slovakia Betting
Despite their issues, England are overwhelming 2/5 favourites at Bet365 while Slovakia are priced 10/1 to inflict a damaging defeat on the Three Lions. The draw is available at 7/2.
Recent head-to-head meetings, coupled with England’s abject performances, would suggest that Southgate’s men will be made to work for the points. There’s a good chance that they will get the breakthrough, but scoring three or more could be a bit far.
Given that Slovakia are unlikely to enjoy many moments in the attacking third, we’re taking under 2.5 goals.
The reverse clash in Trnava was settled by Adam Lallana’s late winner. On this occasion, we’re backing a Liverpool teammate to grab the breakthrough as an outside bet.
Jordan Henderson has yet to open his England account at senior level, but does know how to score goals. With the captain’s armband looking likely to remain his for the foreseeable future, we’re backing him to celebrate in style.