Slovenia will be aiming to move off the bottom of Group B4 when they take on Norway in the UEFA Nations League on Saturday.
The visitors, meanwhile, are on the cusp of gaining promotion to League A for the first time, and could secure that with a victory depending on how Serbia fare against Sweden later in the evening.
After topping a group containing Greece, Kosovo and Moldova last time out, Slovenia were provided with an opportunity to test themselves in League B of the Nations League for the first time.
So far, Matjaz Kek’s side have found things difficult, with two draws and two defeats seeing them trail Sweden by one point heading into the fifth round of fixtures.
However, given that they face the Swedes on Tuesday, a positive result against their Scandinavian neighbours Norway on Saturday could see them head to Stockholm off the foot of the group table, which would put avoiding relegation into their own hands.
Despite losing Miha Blazic to a 63rd-minute red card, Kek’s side managed to keep Erling Braut Haaland and company at bay in a 0-0 draw in Oslo in June, so the 61-year-old and his players may be quietly confident of causing an upset on home soil at the weekend.
Indeed, that stalemate was the only blot on an otherwise faultless Nations League campaign for Norway so far, with wins in each of their other three matches seeing them lead Serbia by three points at the top of Group H.
Haaland, who has adapted to the Premier League even quicker than anyone could have anticipated following his summer transfer from Borussia Dortmund to Manchester City, has bagged five goals across those three victories, with his strike partner Alexander Sorloth scoring the decisive third in a 3-2 win against Sweden last time out.
Having failed to qualify for a major tournament since Euro 2000, there is real belief that Haaland’s quality in front of goal – aided by captain Martin Odegaard’s creativity in midfield – could spearhead the Lions to their most successful era for more than two decades
Head coach Stale Solbakken, who made 58 caps for his country as a player, was a part of the team that reached the 1994 and 1998 World Cups as well as the aforementioned European Championships in Belgium and the Netherlands, and he will be desperate to lead a talented group of players to similar achievements.
In the meantime, though, promotion to League A of the Nations League would represent a key platform for future success as well as providing more regular tests against the elite nations in Europe, and a win in Slovenia on Saturday would take them one step closer to completing that at the very least.
Slovenia Nations League form:
Slovenia form (all competitions):
Norway Nations League form:
Norway form (all competitions):
We say: Slovenia 1-2 Norway
We expect to see a closely-fought encounter in Slovenia on Saturday, but the visitors’ greater quality in midfield and attack is likely to prove the difference in the end.
Norway could secure promotion to League A with a victory, so Haaland is likely to be more motivated than ever to add to his tally of 20 international goals and counting.