England scored three in the dying minutes away at Malta to put a flattering gloss on the scoreline, but fans and pundits alike were less than impressed with yet another stale performance. In England’s defence it is often the case that they are attempting to break down teams which put eleven men behind the ball, but will the test of Slovakia be any different on Monday night?
The Slovakian side are second in the group with 15 points, four ahead of next-best Scotland with 11 points (England lead with 17). This away trip to Wembley can be defined as Slovakia’s toughest fixture in the group, but a run of five straight qualifying victories has earned them enough breathing space not to take any chances. A draw here would be a perfectly acceptable result in the quest for qualification as far as Slovakia are concerned, so once again the onus will be all on the English to attack and create. Three lions fans will be painfully aware that it is in precisely these circumstances that their team often struggle, and while they may get the desired three points, it is almost certainly going to be a struggle.
Other games in the group include Scotland’s home tie with Malta and Slovenia versus Lithuania. The Scots gave themselves a group F lifeline with Friday’s 3-0 victory away in Lithuania, and might take the awkward position of hoping for an ‘Auld Enemy’ victory over Slovakia in order to help them gain ground on second spot in the section. Slovenia meanwhile suffered a 1-0 defeat at Slovakia on the same night, and must win at home to Lithuania on Monday to stay in contention.
In other matches, Northern Ireland could guarantee second place behind Germany in group C with a home win over Czech Republic. Surprisingly the bookmakers have made Czech Republic favourites to win on Monday night in Northern Ireland, despite the fact that they trail Michael O’Neill’s side by seven points in the section.
England v Slovakia
Rather than back England to win at short odds, the shrewd bet might be on under 2.5 goals at 23/251.92-1090.92-1.090.92 with 188Bet.
Adam Lallana’s late goal in Sam Allardyce’s only game in charge gave England a 1-0 win away in Slovakia earlier in the group, but the two sides had previously drawn 0-0 at Euro 2016 in France. England’s star-studded side consistently struggle to live up to their reputation, and there is every chance that Slovakia will adopt a defensive approach as they try to strengthen their grip on second in the group.
Slovakia have only conceded four goals in seven qualifying games, and will be aware that if they lose and both Scotland and Slovenia win tonight, they will be just one point ahead of that pair. They also have to travel to Scotland in October, so the qualifying places in this section are likely to go right to the wire.
For England the win will see them pull five points clear of Slovakia and will also guarantee at least second place in the group, while a point will at least give them a three-point cushion over the chasing pack. Gareth Southgate has said that he wants his side to excite at Wembley so they are expected to be on the front foot, but England have huffed and puffed to too many qualification victories over the years for us to be confident about a resounding win.
The three points may go the way of the Three Lions, but don’t expect it to be a whitewash.
Northern Ireland v Czech Republic
For the brave and bold punters there could be a decent bet on Northern Ireland at odds of 21/103.10+2102.102.10-0.48 with Bet365 to beat Czech Republic.
Both sides competed at Euro 2016, but while Czech Republic went out at the group stage, Northern Ireland made it through to the second round where they lost out to Wales. This qualifying campaign has seen Michael O’Neill’s side win five of seven qualifiers, and they ground out a 0-0 draw away at the Czech’s last September.
Czech Republic have struggled in this group and qualification hangs in the balance. They’ve also been held to draws by Norway and Azerbaijan and have only won two of seven qualifiers. This is a must-win game on their part of they are to catch up and snatch second spot, but only the most confident fans will fancy them to do so on foreign soil.
A draw would suit Northern Ireland best of the two as it would maintain their seven-point lead with two games to go, but a chance is taken on them winning in front of their own fans and wrapping up a play off place at the least.
Slovenia v Lithuania
Finally, Slovenia are short odds to beat Lithuania but should do the business at 9/251.36-2780.36-2.780.36 with SkyBet and Bet365.
Joint-third in the group with Scotland on 11 points, Slovenia are also chasing Slovakia and England for the top two spots in the group. A win here will help close the gap on at least one of those sides who meet at Wembley, and they ought to be good enough to inflict a 5th straight international defeat on an average Lithuanian side.
England v Slovakia – Under 2.5 goals
Monday 4th September, 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.