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Monday, 15 October, 2018

Youthful England can plot a course past Slovakia at Wembley

Three Lions have attacking quality to keep visitors on the back foot

England's Harry Kane scores past Andrew Hogg of Malta
1 of 1

World Cup qualifier
7.45pm Monday, ITV

England were uninspiring in Malta on Friday night, but three points, Harry Kane's return to goalscoring form and an impressive second-half display from Marcus Rashford did at least give manager Gareth Southgate a handful of positives to work with.

No-one would be fooled into believing the Three Lions currently look anything like a tournament-winning side but they do have some decent options going forward and should be able to break through a Slovakian rearguard who have managed to concede in all three Group F away games so far - 1-0 against Slovenia, 1-2 in Lithuania and 1-3 in Malta.

Even the most frustrated England critic would struggle to argue that an attack featuring Kane, Rashford and Dele Alli is any worse than the front lines boasted by Slovenia, Lithuania and Malta. And while Southgate's men did produce a snooze-inducing 90 minutes in Ta'Qali, the Three Lions could and should have broken through far earlier and will be more comfortable operating in the spaces provided by opponents who look to cross the half-way line.

A stodgy, slow-passing midfield remains the problem for Southgate's side, but Eric Dier's return should offer slight improvement. The Tottenham midfielder is no Andrea Pirlo but has superior passing and movement to the man he is likely to replace, Jake Livermore.

Slovakia will boast arguably the best player on the pitch in Marek Hamsik but lack quality elsewhere. Winger Vladimir Weiss offers threat but is short of match fitness and such is the paucity of options up front that Hamsik - usually a deep-lying playmaker - could be pushed forward to lead the line. While that move would get their star man closer to goal, it could also play into England's hands with the hosts' defence able to smother Slovakia's standout threat.

The return from suspension of central defensive pair Martin Skrtel and Jan Durica offer stability and experience but neither are top-class internationals and both are heading towards the twilight of their careers. Behind them, injury to first-choice goalkeeper Matus Kozacik means the relatively inexperienced Martin Dubravka will deputize.

If a lively, youthful England attack can keep the pressure on the visitors' defence and keep Slovakia's midfield in firefighting mode rather than on the front foot, Hamsik may be starved of the opportunity to showcase his match-winning talents.

Recommended bet
1-0 or 2-0 correct score
1pt 21-10 Hills, Skybet

Bet on this match at Soccerbase.com

Dan Sait is the Football Editor of the Racing & Football Outlook - out every Tuesday

 

Slovakia will boast arguably the best player on the pitch in Marek Hamsik, but lack quality elsewhere
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