The top four nations are separated by just one point heading into this month’s fixtures, and the Slovenians sit at the summit after six matches.
Aside from losing June’s reverse fixture to Finland in Helsinki, Slovenia have gone unbeaten through their other five Group H games so far, including back-to-back wins in September.
As a result, Matjaz Kek’s men occupy one of two automatic qualifying places for next summer’s European Championship finals in Germany; however, they still have plenty of work left to do.
Alongside this weekend’s visitors, both Denmark and Kazakhstan lie within a point of Slovenia, and in a six-team group there are four matches remaining between now and next month’s conclusion.
In addition to a 4-0 defeat of rock-bottom San Marino, the Slovenians’ last get-together also brought a 4-2 win over Northern Ireland in Ljubljana, with strike duo Andraz Sporar and Benjamin Sesko both getting their names on the scoresheet at Stadion Stozice.
Slovenia have not qualified for a Euros since 2000, and their last appearance at any finals came at the World Cup ten years later, so Kek – who was in charge on the latter occasion – is now aiming to bring the good times back and make his second spell as national boss just as memorable.
While Finland have set foot on the main stage much more recently than Saturday’s hosts – making a cameo appearance at the delayed Euro 2020 – that remains the Nordic nation’s only finals appearance to date.
Having had a taste of the big time, the Finns are naturally eager for more in 2024, and they set off on the road to Germany in fine style, establishing a two-point lead atop Group H by beating Kazakhstan at the start of September.
Markku Kanerva’s men had also won 2-0 against Slovenia in June, thanks to goals from Joel Pohjanpalo and Oliver Antman, but defeat to Denmark last time out saw them overhauled by their neighbours. They therefore sit third, now one point adrift of the top two.
As the Eagle-Owls could yet be handed a playoff place based on their efforts in League B of the most recent UEFA Nations League, not everything rests on their final four group fixtures.
Nonetheless, picking up points in Ljubljana and from next week’s home game against Kazakhstan could put Finland in pole position ahead of November’s finale.
Slovenia Euro Champ Qualifying form:
Finland Euro Champ Qualifying form:
We say: Slovenia 1-1 Finland
With so much on the line, neither side is set to go all-guns-blazing on Saturday evening, when one point apiece would represent a decent result for either. Slovenia seem to have the tougher run-in, but even a draw should keep their destiny in their own hands, as Denmark or Kazakhstan play each other and at least one must drop points.