England Prepare for World Cup Qualifier Against Slovenia
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England Prepare for World Cup Qualifier Against Slovenia

Tonight sees England playing their second World Cup qualifying match in the space of a week, as they travel to Ljubljana to take on Slovenia. They’ll be bidding to keep up their 100% record in the World Cup qualifying process, however will have to play much better than they did in their previous two matches, which saw uninspiring wins against Slovakia and Malta.

The biggest news before the match is that Wayne Rooney will start from the bench, a decision described by Gareth Southgate as “tactical.” This will please a number of fans, who have been calling for England’s record scorer to be dropped for a while, however Southgate is still adamant that Rooney has a role to play within the team. He’ll be replaced in midfield by Tottenham’s Eric Dier, who will partner Jordan Henderson – the man who will take the captain’s armband from Rooney for the match.

England have a couple of new injury issues, with both Tom Heaton and Ryan Bertrand having to withdraw from the squad. Bertrand’s injury means that Danny Rose will probably regain his starting position at left back. Heaton has been replaced by Sunderland’s Jordan Pickford, while Kieran Gibbs has been drafted into the squad to replace Bertrand.

History states that England should win tonight’s encounter, as they have won all four of their previous matches against Slovenia, with the last meeting coming in 2005. Slovenia have looked good so far in qualifying though, and are emerging as the team most likely to challenge England at the top of the table. More attacking verve than the Malta game will be required if they are to overcome Slovenia, and Joe Hart can also expect to be tested more than he was in the previous game.

Scotland are also in action tonight in the same group as England, and they face a tough trip to Slovakia. If both England and Scotland manage to win, they’ll open up a gap at the top of the table, however a loss for Scotland would make qualifying automatically an incredibly tough prospect. They’ll possibly be without Darren Fletcher for tonight’s match, while Gordon Strachan has admitted that he will be making changes from the team that drew with Lithuania over the weekend.

Northern Ireland also play this evening, and they have one of the toughest tasks in world football – a visit to Germany. It’s a rematch from Euro 2016, where the Germans won 1-0, which was marked by a stunning performance from Northern Ireland keeper Michael McGovern. If Northern Ireland do manage a shock victory, it will be their first against Germany since 1983, and they will also extend their unbeaten run in qualifying games to nice matches.

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