England v Slovenia, International Friendly, September 5, 2009
There are no easy games in international. So they say. Well, we say poppycock as England prepare for what should be a walk in Wembley sunshine on Saturday as the Three Lion warm up for the big match against Croatia on Wednesday night.
Talking down Slovenia though, could be a dangerous game. The Eastern Europeans have only been a sovereign state for the past 18 years, but they are on the verge of reaching their second ever World Cup finals provided they can beat Poland at home next week to secure their place in the play-offs.
Fans of English football will immediately recognise one name in the Slovenian line-up, with West Bromâ€™s Robert Koren (7/1 to score) a pivotal figure in the midfield. Perhaps less well known is Udinese’s highly-rated 25-year-old keeper Samir Handanovic who, at 6.3ft tall, is known for his physical presence as well as being reliable from crosses and shots from distance.
Leading the line is Cologne striker Milivoje Novakovic (12/1 to score first) , who has shown himself to be a proven goalscorer in the Bundesliga with 36 goals in 88 appearances in the German top flight. His strike partner, 24-year-old Zlatko Dedic (6/1 to score) of Bochum, is also capable of causing the English backline problems with his creativity and pace.
Yet, with all that said, England should still have far too much in their locker, even taking into account the slew of absentees, to chalk up the victory in front of the English faithful.
There are several selection issues for Don Fabio to consider. With David James unavailable, Ben Foster will be trying to dislodge Robert Green in goal however the consensus opinion is pointing to the Hammers number one being giving the nod.
With Rio Ferdinand definitely out, and England captain John Terry and Wes Brown picking up knocks this week, Bolton’s Gary Cahill has been called in as cover. However smart money will be on Matthew Upson and Joleon Lescott to be England’s unfamiliar centre-half pairing on Saturday with Glen Johnson (8/1 to score) and Ashley Cole filling out the full-back positions.
David Beckham should again find himself a bench-warmer as Aaron Lennon will aim to carry his Spurs form into the international arena by flying down the right hand side. Steven Gerrard (6/1 to score first), Frank Lampard and Gareth Barry could well complete the midfield four, while up-top we wait to see if Jermain Defoe (EVS to score) will be selected to partner Wayne Rooney (10/3 to score first) in the attack.
Question-marks remain though over the Defoe-Rooney forward-line, as the dinky Spurs striker has yet to score any of his 10 international goals while Rooney has been on the pitch for England.
Slovenia, while unlikely to cause an upset, have only lost narrowly at Northern Ireland, Belgium and in the Czech Republic in recent away trips. As such it is doubtful whether England will chalk up a tennis score on Saturday, but a comfortable 2 or 3-nil win is a more likely proposition.
101predicts: England 2 – Slovenia 0 (9/2)
Full match odds here.
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