The big news in the build-up to England’s World Cup qualifier away in Slovenia, is that Gareth Southgate has said Wayne Rooney will start on the bench. The Manchester United forward’s position in the starting line up has been an ongoing debate since the Euros, and Southgate’s decision gives everyone a chance to see how England play without their former talisman.
It’s a bold call from the interim England manager, and one that on previous evidence he looked unlikely to make. Having confirmed that Rooney would continue as captain, and starting him in midfield against Malta, Southgate said he was surprised by the boos for England’s top scorer during the match. The fact that he has taken the step to field a team without him – particularly in a tricky away tie in Slovenia – could suggest that he’s taking the managerial position seriously and is set to stake his claim for the position on a full-time basis. If he was only concerned with looking after the team until a new man came in, there would be no need to make such a decision when it would be much easier to leave the tough calls to his successor.
Either way, it provides yet another angle to a match that will tell us plenty about this current England squad, and Southgate’s potential as its manager. Meanwhile, Scotland have a tricky tie themselves away in Slovakia, and off the back of a disappointing home draw with Lithuania, the pressure is on. Many in the media have suggested that Gordon Strachan has his best ever squad of players right now, but that result was one they couldn’t really afford in the context of Group F.
Slovenia v England
We’ll start with the England game, and the Three Lions are a not unreasonable price at 7/101.70-1430.70-1.430.70 with Bet365, BetVictor and Ladbrokes.
England have won all four previous games against Slovenia, including a double-header in Euro 2016 qualifying. Two goals from Jack Wilshere and a winner from Rooney gave them a 3-2 victory in the away match in June 2015, while the home tie in November 2014 ended in a 3-1 win. Rooney was also on target in that match, as was Danny Welbeck with a brace, and it says plenty about the changing face of this England side that none of those three players will take to the field in the first eleven on Tuesday night.
There should still be more than enough quality to get the better of a Slovenian side that failed to qualify for Euro 2016, after losing a play off to Ukraine. They may have only lost 3 of their last 10 home internationals, but the teams they have faced have hardly been world beaters. Turkey and Colombia have been victorious in Slovenia, while Ukraine and Lithuania have managed draws. Slovakia were surprisingly beaten here 1-0 a few days ago in a group match, but England are a much superior side – on paper at least.
After a terrible Euro 2016 finals campaign, England have resumed normal service in qualification with two wins from two. Adam Lallana’s late show gave them a 1-0 victory in Slovakia, and although the 2-0 win over Malta was nothing to write home about, that’s still six points and two clean sheets. The chances are that Eric Dier will come in for Rooney to partner Jordan Henderson in central midfield, so it’s a more solid defensive shape. Southgate has already been prepared to throw youngsters Lingard and Rashford into the action though, and without Rooney as the fulcrum, this could be a more dynamic England team.
Slovakia v Scotland
Next up, we’re backing Scotland at 3/41.75-1330.75-1.330.75 with Coral to avoid defeat in Slovakia.
Gordon Strachan’s side can count themselves unlucky to only draw with Lithuania after missing a host of gilt-edged chances throughout the game. As it turned out it was a late strike from James McArthur that got them a point after they’d fallen behind to a shock Lithuania goal.
Anyone who watched the match will know that Scotland’s finishing badly let them down, and they should have been out of sight by the time they found themselves 1-0 down. The result leaves them level on four points after two games with England’s opponents Slovenia, but Slovakia are joint-bottom of the group with Malta after back-to-back defeats to England and Slovenia. The Slovaks made something of an impression at Euro 2016, navigating their way through the group stages before being outclassed 3-0 by Germany. In reality though, they lost to Wales, beat a poor Russian side, and drew 0-0 with a struggling England side. They were perhaps unlucky to lose out in the last minute to England in the first qualifier, but were beaten by the same 1-0 scoreline in Slovenia. That’s two games without a goal or a point, and Scotland certainly have nothing to fear.
The Scots have beaten the likes of Czech Republic and Poland on the road in recent away internationals, and should be good enough to claim at least a point on Tuesday night.
Denmark v Montenegro
Finally we’re tipping Denmark to come out on top against Montenegro at 4/61.67-1500.67-1.500.67 with Paddy Power and William Hill
We backed Poland to beat the Danes over the weekend, and they did by three goals to two, but Denmark put in a spirited fightback from 3-0 down. That was always going to be a tough one, but a home match versus Montenegro should be a much easier assignment.
Montenegro may have won their last World Cup qualifier 5-0, but that was against Kazakhstan, and it was their first victory in eight internationals. Previously they’d lost five in seven, including defeats to the likes of Macedonia, Russia and Greece.
Denmark may not be world beaters, but they reached the play offs in Euro qualification, going down marginally to Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Sweden. They started the 2016 season with a 5-0 thumping of Liechtenstein, and they’ve only been beaten at home by France and Portugal in the last ten internationals. Denmark beat Montenegro 2-1 in a June 2015 friendly on home soil, and they can go in again on Tuesday night.
England to beat Slovenia
Tuesday 11th October, 19:45 GMT
Eric has been a sports journalist for over 20 years and has travelled the world covering top sporting events for a number of publications. He also has a passion for betting and uses his in-depth knowledge of the sports world to pinpoint outstanding odds and value betting opportunities.
SBO.net Bookie Selector
Our Bookie selector is designed to find the perfect place for you to bet. Simply answer a few quick questions and we’ll choose the best online bookmaker for you.