England can go five points clear with two games to play in Group F if they beat Slovakia

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Gareth Southgate is keen for his England players to excite the Wembley crowd during Monday’s 2018 World Cup qualifier with Slovakia.

England were underwhelming in Malta on Friday when three late goals gave them a flattering 4-0 victory.

They lead Group F by two points and a win over second-placed Slovakia will leave them on the cusp of qualifying for next summer’s finals in Russia.

“We have some exciting players and we want to show that,” said Southgate.

“We have a responsibility to get the Wembley crowd on their feet but equally, everywhere we go in the world the home crowd give the team a lift. It will be great if we can get the level of support that stadium can bring.

“The whole country wants to be at the World Cup. It is a great opportunity for us.

“We are playing good opposition so we have to make sure we are tactically prepared, which we will be, but also have belief in the team we have got.”

Victory for England on Monday will take them five points clear of their opponents with two games left to play.

A different kind of test

Southgate felt his side put on a “professional” performance in the game against Malta, who put up a resilient display until they tired late on to allow England to exert their authority.

However, they were criticised for the display, with former national captain Terry Butcher suggesting that they lacked the kind of gifted individuals capable of unlocking the best defences.

Southgate expects a much sterner test on Monday, against a side who have won their last five World Cup qualifiers and have Napoli midfielder Marek Hamsik and Dinamo Bucharest striker Adam Nemec.

Malta 0-4 England: Gareth Southgate pleased with Three Lions’ game plan

In their opening game of the group, England required a 95th-minute Adam Lallana goal to beat the 10 men of Slovakia in Southgate’s predecessor, Sam Allardyce’s only game in charge.

“They are a good side with players we respect. The last couple of games we have played against them have been 0-0 and 0-1 in the last minute against 10 men,” Southgate told BBC Sport.

“We are all aware of the challenge they pose but we also feel they are a team we can beat.

“It is an opportunity. We have a home game to put us within touching distance of Russia, which is exciting. Qualifying groups come down to these type of games.”

Dier to return, Rashford to start?

Rashford came on as a half-time substitute for England against Malta

Southgate revealed that he would make some changes for the Slovakia game but that the core of the side would remain the same.

All 26 squad members trained in the build-up to the match.

Tottenham’s Eric Dier is back from suspension and the England boss said the midfielder’s return to the starting XI was one option he is considering, as is a first Wembley start for Manchester United forward Marcus Rashford.

“He is a talent with high potential and we really like his mentality,” said Southgate. “He has been playing very well for Manchester United this season and we wouldn’t hesitate to start him.

“Starting him was a possibility in Malta but he missed some of the training, not only with us but the week before with his club. We have been looking after him a bit.

“I have a lovely dilemma with regard to our attacking positions. We made three excellent changes the other night and got a very positive reaction and I also had Daniel Sturridge and Jermain Defoe sat next to me.”

One thing that will not change is the captaincy, with Liverpool midfielder Jordan Henderson retaining the armband.

Southgate also confirmed that Joe Hart would remain in goal.

Is it the right time for Rashford? – Analysis

BBC football correspondent John Murray

Gareth Southgate has told us that Jordan Henderson will be captain again and that Joe Hart will continue in goal. He confirmed that Phil Jones will remain in the centre of defence, and he intimated that Eric Dier will return to the midfield having been suspended for Friday night’s match in Malta.

The England manager said he would make changes – in the plural – to his starting line-up but it’s very possible there will only be two of them; Dier for Livermore and maybe Rashford for Sterling.

The 19-year-old replaced Sterling at half-time on Friday, and he is yet to start for England at Wembley. With 10 caps to his name now, Rashford has been selected to begin only twice – for his debut in the friendly against Australia in Sunderland last year when he scored after 135 seconds, and in the final qualifier of last season in Glasgow against Scotland. In a pressure match like this, Southgate could now feel the time is right for Rashford to show what he can do from the outset at the National Stadium.

England squad to face Slovakia

Goalkeepers

Jack Butland (Stoke City), Joe Hart (West Ham United, on loan from Manchester City), Tom Heaton (Burnley), Jordan Pickford (Everton).

Defenders

Ryan Bertrand (Southampton), Gary Cahill (Chelsea), Aaron Cresswell (West Ham United), Phil Jones (Manchester United), Michael Keane (Everton), Harry Maguire (Leicester City), Chris Smalling (Manchester United), John Stones (Manchester City), Kieran Trippier (Tottenham Hotspur), Kyle Walker (Manchester City).

Midfielders

Dele Alli (Tottenham Hotspur), Nathaniel Chalobah (Watford), Eric Dier (Tottenham Hotspur), Jordan Henderson (Liverpool), Jesse Lingard (Manchester United), Jake Livermore (West Bromwich Albion), Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (Arsenal), Raheem Sterling (Manchester City).

Forwards

Jermain Defoe (Bournemouth), Harry Kane (Tottenham Hotspur), Marcus Rashford (Manchester United), Daniel Sturridge (Liverpool), Jamie Vardy (Leicester City), Danny Welbeck (Arsenal).


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