Just 67 days into his tenure as England manager and Sam Allardyce is out. His fault – he appeared to be doling out advice on how to circumvent FA laws regarding player transfers. In comes a much younger 46-year old Watford-born Gareth Southgate just days before England’s World Cup qualifiers against Malta and Slovenia. The Englishmen visit Ljubljana for a October 11 clash against a Srecko Katanec managed Slovenia.
England’s forward line and midfield is laden with talent with the likes of Jamie Vardy, Daniel Sturridge, Dele Alli, Marcus Rashford, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Eric Dier and Theo Walcott finding their way into Southgate’s squad. The brilliant Raheem Sterling is out due to an injury and he will be replaced by Crystal Palace winger Andros Townsend. Jordan Henderson, Gary Cahill, Glen Johnson, Danny Rose, John Stones and Kyle Walker will be among the strong candidates to comprise the back line in the starting XI against the Slovenians.Wayne Rooney’s name in the starting XI could be under a cloud although he is part of the 23-man squad. Eighteen-year old wunderkid Marcus Rashford is no doubt the hottest candidate for the striker’s position. Rashford has been outstanding for Manchester United this season, already accounting for 3 goals from his 5 Premier League outings for the club and a hat-trick for England against Norway in a U21 clash to boot. Joe Hart could face tough competition from Fraser Forster (Southampton) and Tom Heaton (Burnley) for the goalkeeper’s position.
The Slovenians haven’t exactly got off to a flyer in their WC2018 qualifying campaign. A 2-2 draw against a 117th placed Lithuania wasn’t the kind of start they were looking for. Moreover they have a tough outing against a gritty Slovakia on October 8 and would dearly like not to lose more points in the Group F cluster in which they are currently placed at third after Scotland and England. As for England, they can expect to move up the table post their October 8 clash against minions Malta at the Wembley. For the Slovenians, Bundesliga players like Bayer Leverkusen’s Kevin Kampl midfielder and the in-form FC Nurnberg striker, Tim Matavz could be the mainstays for the home side on October 11. The Slovenian defense could be a tough nut to crack with veterans like Branko Ilic, Bojan Jokic and Miso Brecko marshaling the back line and supported by Atletico Madrid’s brilliant Jan Oblak at the goal.
Slovenia have lost in all their four appearances against England since 2009 in various competitions but are perceived to be much tougher now and they will have the added advantage of playing at home. Initial bets seem to indicate a even stevens affair at Stadion Stozice come Tuseday October 11. However odds could move either way post the outcome of October 8 qualifying clashes of both these teams against Malta and Slovakia respectively.