Slovenia head coach Srecko Katanec would be delighted if England dropped captain Wayne Rooney for their World Cup qualifying clash.
The teams meet in Ljubljana on Tuesday, with the build-up to the match dominated by reports England interim manager Gareth Southgate is preparing to leave the Manchester United forward out of his starting XI.
Rooney – England’s record goalscorer – has only scored once in 12 appearances for club and country this season, but Katanec would still rather see him on the substitutes’ bench.
“I would prefer it if he doesn’t start,” Katanec said at his pre-match news conference. “He is still a leader for England.
“But I would not be surprised if he does not start the game. He is not the youngest and maybe his form has taken a little dip – he is not at such a level as required of him by journalists.
“He is the leader and as the leader – a man who has played a lot of matches in the national team – such a man is not that easy to get out.
“England are a better quality team in every way and we expect it to be very tough.”
England sit top of Group F with maximum points from their first two matches, while Slovenia are third with four points.
On Saturday, the Three Lions beat Malta 2-0 at Wembley but sections of the home crowd booed Rooney after a disappointing display.