England have won all four of their previous meetings with Slovenia. Fabio Capello’s Three Lions defeated the Purples 2-1 in a friendly at Wembley in September 2009 and then 1-0 in Port Elizabeth a year later to reach the knockout stage of the 2010 World Cup. Former Tottenham and West Ham striker Jermain Defoe scored in both matches. Two further wins followed during qualification for Euro 2016, this time under the stewardship of Roy Hodgson.
The man in charged
Srecko Katanec is in his second spell in charge, having led Slovenia to the finals of the 2000 European Championship in Belgium and Holland as well as the 2002 World Cup in Japan and South Korea. Under Katenec’s command, Slovenia earned draws against FR Yugoslavia and Norway at Euro 2000, although his side bombed two years later, losing all three matches to Spain, South Africa and Paraguay. Katanec had a huge bust up with star player Zlatko Zahovic during the tournament and resigned immediately after its conclusion. He was reappointed in 2013 after spells with Olympiacos, Macedonia and United Arab Emirates.
Slovenia, who are ranked 67th in the Fifa world rankings, have only lost one of their past nine qualifying matches at home, winning six and drawing two in the process. Their last defeat was the 3-2 reverse against England in June 2015 when Arsenal midfielder Jack Wilshere, who is currently on loan at Bournemouth, scored twice as skipper Wayne Rooney netted a late winner. They will enter the clash buoyed by Saturday’s 1-0 victory over near-neighbours Slovakia in Ljubljana.
Slovenia’s main creative thrust is set to emanate from Serie A in the form of Chievo’s Valter Birsa and Josip Ilicic of Fiorentina. Birsa operated as a No10 against Slovakia at the weekend and much of Slovenia’s attacking play stemmed from the 30-year-old. Ilicic, however, provided the assist for Rok Kronaveter’s winning strike on the night. Maribor’s veteran striker Milivoje Novakovic, aged 37, has 31 goals from his 78 caps and is only four strikes short of all-time leading goalscorer Zahovic.