After their humiliating exit from Euro 2016 at the hands of Iceland, England will be looking to bounce back in style in Sam Allardyce’s first game in charge.
Michail Antonio was the only surprise inclusion in Allardyce’s first squad. The 26-year-old has earned his call up after hitting impressive form for West Ham after joining from Nottingham Forest last summer. He has already hit two goals this season, including the winner against Bournemouth in the Hammers’ first league game at the London Stadium.
Phil Jagielka and Theo Walcott were also recalled after missing out on Roy Hodgson’s Euro 2016 squad.
Jan Kozak’s side will themselves be looking for a positive start to their qualifying campaign after an underwhelming tournament in France. They progressed in third place in Group B behind Wales and England but were comfortably beaten 3-0 by Germany in the last 16.
It will be a tough opening game for Allardyce, and the pressure will be on the players to deliver a positive result, particularly as the former Sunderland manager has made just three changes from the side that started against Iceland.
John Stones replaces Chris Smalling after being involved in every one of Man City’s Premier League games so far following his summer move from Everton, while Jordan Henderson and Adam Lallana come in for Dele Alli and Daniel Sturridge.
There will be a lot of focus on Joe Hart’s performance after a disappointing Euro 2016 and a hectic start to the season which saw him join Torino on loan after Man City manager Pep Guardiola announced he was free to leave the club. Hart needs a strong performance to cement his place in the team.
Fraser Forster’s absence from the squad due to injury all but confirmed Hart’s place in the starting eleven, but once Forster and Stoke’s Jack Butland return from injury, this will increase the pressure on the 29-year-old.
Allardyce has also kept faith with Harry Kane and Raheem Sterling, who were also criticised for poor performances in the summer. Despite two excellent seasons for Tottenham, Kane was unable to find the net in France and has also drawn a blank in the North London side’s opening three Premier League fixtures. Sterling has enjoyed a good start to the season at Man City, which included a decisive brace in last week’s impressive 3-1 victory over West Ham, and Allardyce will be hoping the former Liverpool man can put his disappointing summer behind him.
Adam Lallana returns to the starting lineup after being harshly left out of the side that started the fateful game against Iceland. Allardyce will be hoping the Liverpool midfielder can replicate his promising form in England’s opening two games at the Euros against Russia and Wales.
His Anfield teammate Jordan Henderson is given a good opportunity to force his way into Allardyce’s long-term pans. Many remained unsure of Henderson’s ability to deliver on the international stage, and Eric Dier’s emergence has made the former Sunderland midfielder’s task all the more difficult. However, a strong performance in Trnava would do wonders for his chances after being largely overlooked at the Euros.
After a positive start to life at Man City, John Stones will be hoping to continue his promising form and establish himself as England’s first-choice centre back. Many remain excited at Stones’ prospects and the match against Slovakia will be a good test of his ability and mindset as he looks to cut down on the mistakes and achieve some consistency in his performances.
Their 0-0 draw in Saint-Etienne in June was only the fourth meeting between the sides following England’s two victories in the Euro 2004 qualifying campaign and the 4-0 friendly win at Wembley in 2009. England won the away qualifying fixture 2-1 with goals from David Beckham and Michael Owen.