England vs Slovakia World Cup Qualifier Preview: Classic Encounter, Key Battles, Team News and More
After a flattering 4-0 win away at Malta, England host Slovakia on Monday night knowing that a win would almost seal World Cup qualification from Group F.
Slovakia will arrive at Wembley just two points behind Gareth Southgate's men and on a fairly fine run of form with wins against Lithuania, Slovenia and Malta in their last three games.
A win for England would ensure that only two points from as many games will be required to qualify as winners from group F, but although Slovakia know that their current points total should see them qualify for the playoffs as one of the best runners-up, Ján Kozák's side will want three points to increase their chances of finishing top.
Here's everything you need to know ahead of the clash at Wembley:
While England defeated Slovakia 1-0 in their last encounter at the 2016 World Cup, back in 2003 the Three Lions faced Monday's opponents knowing that a win was key to qualifying for Euro 2004 as group winners with Turkey just behind them.
Stand-in skipper Michael Owen marked his 50th England appearance with a crucial double strike to spare coach Sven-Goran Eriksson's embarrassment as Slovakia threatened a shock at Middlesbrough's Riverside Stadium.
The Three Lions fell behind in the 31st minute after midfielder Vladimir Janocko hit the back of the net with a 30-yard free-kick past David James.
However, Owen earned a penalty in the 60th minute and dusted himself off to score the equaliser before putting a bullet header past the helpless Miroslav Konig in the Slovakia goal to seal the win and England topped their qualifying group by just one point.
Gary Cahill & Phil Jones vs Adam Nemec
Napoli playmaker Marek Hamšík is the poster boy and vice-captain of the Slovakian side, but focus should be placed on striker Adam Nemec, who tops the goalscoring chart for Group F.
The 32-year-old may not have the most terrifying goalscoring record throughout his 15-year professional career, but 13 league goals for Romanian side Dinamo București last season has given him some confidence and the 6 ft 3 in target man can certainly be tough to handle.
With Gary Cahill looking to put himself in contention to fill the vacant captaincy role left by Wayne Rooney, much will be expected of the Chelsea man on Monday and how he can deal with the likes of Nemec and Hamšík.
Nemec will prove to be a key battle for Phil Jones not only with an England win in mind, but the 25-year-old is starting to revive his club career at Manchester United and his he can match his strong start to the league season then a good performance could cement him in the United back four.
Ensuring that Cahill and Jones keep Nemec quiet will be a key battle as not only can the Slovakian frontman hit the net, but his build allows him to hold the ball up well for the likes of Hamšík, Mak and Weiss to come into the game. If Nemec is dealt with well, then the focal point of Slovakia's attacks, and therefore their chances of winning, will evaporate.
Only minimal change should be expected from England's clash with Malta on Friday, with manager Southgate's limited use of substitutes giving the impression that the game was preparation for the clash with Slovakia rather than an experimental one.
Eric Dier will return after serving a one-match suspension, but Adam Lallana and Danny Rose are among the most notable players to miss out due to fitness problems.
After only playing 45 minutes against Malta, Man City winger Raheem Sterling may drop out for Marcus Rashford, while Danny Welbeck's late cameo against Malta could see him start ahead of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.
Watford’s Nathaniel Chalobah and Leicester’s Harry Maguire are in line to earn their first England caps, but their chances of involvement will be limited, even from the bench.
For Slovakia, defenders Ján Ďurica and Martin Škrtel both return after missing their side's previous game against Slovenia through suspension.
Potential England Starting Lineup (4-2-3-1): Hart; Walker, Cahill, Jones, Bertrand; Henderson, Dier; Welbeck, Alli, Rashford; Kane.
Potential Slovakia Starting Lineup (4-4-1-1): Dubravka; Pekarik, Skrtel, Durica, Hubocan; Mak, Lobotka, Gregus, Weiss; Hamsik; Nemec.
England needed a last-minute winner from Liverpool midfielder Adam Lallana to edge past Slovakia during the 2016 World Cup, but this time the Three Lions will be on a Wembley pitch which isn't favoured by travelling sides (or home sides in Spurs' case!).
The return of Eric Dier should tighten up the midfield, and now that we've hit September Harry Kane should be in fine form to lead England to a hard-earned victory.
Prediction: England 2-1 Slovakia