Preview: Slovenia vs. Armenia – prediction, team news, lineups

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Preview: Slovenia vs. Armenia – prediction, team news, lineups

Sports Mole previews Tuesday’s friendly clash between Slovenia and Armenia, including predictions, team news and possible lineups.

Before attempting to upset the Euro 2024 Group C apple cart, Slovenia play their first of two warm-up friendlies on Tuesday, hosting Armenia at the Stozice Stadium.

While Matjaz Kek‘s side will be slogging it out with the continent’s best later this month, their upcoming visitors fell short in the preliminary rounds.

Match preview

© Reuters

Formerly spending four years in charge of the Slovenia national team from 2007 to 2011 – overseeing his nation’s run to the World Cup Finals in 2010 – 62-year-old Kek returned to the helm in 2018 and now prepares to lead Slovenia into just their second Euros as an independent nation.

Eliminated in the Euro 2000 group stage without earning a single win, Slovenia’s 24-year absence from the continental gathering will soon come to an end thanks to an exceptional run in qualifying, where they dropped just eight points from the 30 on offer.

While Kek’s side matched Denmark’s 22-point tally and even bested the Euro 2020 semi-finalists on goal difference, their inferior head-to-head tally forced them to accept the runners-up spot, although they will soon reunite with the Scandinavians in Group C, where England and Serbia also reside.

Preparations for another major tournament have begun in almost flawless fashion for the Slovenians, who edged out the United States in a January friendly before pitting their wits against Malta and Portugal in another pair of exhibition fixtures in March.

A 2-2 stalemate versus the former was a minor blot on the notebook, but Kek’s side shocked Cristiano Ronaldo‘s Portugal with a 2-0 success in their most recent encounter, underlining their credentials as a possible dark horse for this summer’s tournament in Germany.

Armenia's Lucas Zelarayan celebrates scoring their first goal with teammates on November 18, 2023© Reuters

Slovenia must also cross paths with Bulgaria before boarding their flight to Germany, although upcoming foes Armenia will watch on from afar, having seen their agonising wait for a first-ever major tournament as an independent nation prolonged.

The Havakakan made an early play for the top two spots in Group D – taking seven points from their opening four contests against Turkey (2), Wales and Latvia – but they subsequently collected just one point from the last 12 on offer to quickly fall out of qualification contention.

As Turkey and Croatia sailed off into the sunset and Wales earned a playoff golden ticket, Armenia settled for an unremarkable fourth-placed finish in the five-team section, although Oleksandr Petrakov could take solace from the fact that his troops were not blown to smithereens in any of their battles.

With no Euro 2024 commitments to take into consideration, Armenia are instead building towards their return to League C in the Nations League – having dropped down from the second tier last year – but they have already been sunk in friendlies against Kosovo and Czechia in 2024.

Also taking on Kazakhstan on June 7 before a three-month hiatus, Petrakov’s side have the wrongs of an eight-game winless run to right in Ljubljana, and it has been nearly 12 months since the Havakakan won a fixture in any setting ahead of their first-ever meeting with the Slovenians.

Slovenia friendly form:

Slovenia form (all competitions):

Armenia friendly form:

Armenia form (all competitions):

Team News

RB Leipzig's Benjamin Sesko during the warm up on February 13, 2024© Reuters

A 30-man troupe was summoned by Kek for Slovenia’s preliminary Euro 2024 squad, and even though just four of them ply their trade in their homeland, a significant attacking name – Josip Ilicic – is among them.

The Atalanta BC cult hero is back in the national team for the first time since November 2021 after rediscovering his best form with Maribor, and he is one of two attackers headlining the Slovenian selection; RB Leipzig’s Benjamin Sesko – a transfer target for Arsenal and Manchester United – is the other.

At the other end of the pitch, Atletico Madrid shot-stopper Jan Oblak dons the captain’s armband and is poised to win cap number 65 for his country, while Bodo/Glimt midfielder Nino Zugelj is the only player in the ranks without a senior Slovenia appearance.

As for the Armenians, a plethora of players called up for March’s friendlies have been snubbed this time around, and the vast majority of Petrakov’s selection are either based in the Armenian Premier League or Russian top flight.

While Henrikh Mkhitaryan‘s national team days after over, there is a new Armenian playmaker on the scene in Krasnodar’s Eduard Spertsyan, who contributed 11 goals and seven assists from 29 Russian Premier League matches in 2023-24 and has already captained his nation on three occasions.

Among the four uncapped players in Petrakov’s ranks is 18-year-old defender Andranik Hakobyan, a Spanish-born youngster who signed for Valencia a few months ago.

Slovenia possible starting lineup:
Oblak; Stojanovic, Blazic, Bijol, Janza; Horvat, Gorenc Stankovic, Gnezda Cerin, Lovric; Ilicic, Sesko

Armenia possible starting lineup:
Cancarevic; Davidyan, Haroyan, Mkrtchyan, Muradyan, Grigoryan; Spertsyan, Dashyan, Harutyunyan, Sevikyan; Miranyan

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We say: Slovenia 3-0 Armenia

Potentially one of the surprise packages of Euro 2024, the Sesko-inspired Slovenia should run into few obstacles against an out-of-sorts Armenia side on Tuesday evening.

The visitors are rarely blown away, but that could all change in Ljubljana, where Kek’s side have our vote to storm to a confidence-boosting success.

For data analysis of the most likely results, scorelines and more for this match please click here.

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