It has been an overwhelmingly comfortable campaign so far for the Three Lions, to the extent that most of emphasis has been on the level of the team’s performance rather than the result, which has occasionally been seen as a foregone conclusion. The only time they conceded a goal in Group E up until now came when Slovenia visited Wembley in November, although that came through an own goal by Jordan Henderson.
Aside from that Slovenia showed little in the way of attacking ambition in that encounter, with England responding quickly to the setback and turning the game around to win 3-1. This time it promises to a more difficult assignment, with the hosts possessing a strong record in Ljubljana in recent years, and Roy Hodgson has already admitted that taking the three points takes precedence over performance.
The drab goalless friendly in the Republic of Ireland provided little to suggest how England will go about things here, but Raheem Sterling was clearly struggling for confidence, so Hodgson may decide to bring in the more in-form Theo Walcott for this one. Captain Wayne Rooney continues to close in on Bobby Charlton’s all-time scoring record for his country – a feat he will eventually surpass sooner or later.
While a strong display here will not convince many that England can seriously compete against the best sides in Europe and indeed the world, improved ball retention as well as more pace and incision in their game will at least show that Hodgson’s men are making progress. After all, they are unbeaten since the World Cup.
Fabian Delph returns for England after missing the Ireland game due to a slight injury. Kieran Gibbs is likely to replace Ryan Bertrand at left-back, while Andros Townsend is pushing for a start.