Gareth Southgate backs Raheem Sterling to win over England fans

Sterling has started the season in scintillating form for Manchester City but is yet to impress for England

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England manager Gareth Southgate believes Raheem Sterling will win the hearts of England fans when he features against Slovenia on Thursday night (5 October).

The Manchester City winger has hit the ground running this season, scoring six goals in nine games across all competitions but has endured a more difficult time with England and his performances have often attracted criticism from fans.

However, Southgate has backed the 22-year-old to transfer his club form to the national team.

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"Raheem is a tough lad," Southgate said.

"Thats one of the attributes I really like about him. He bounces back from disappointments and he goes again. He is ready for tomorrow [5 October].

"We want the crowd to be excited with what they're watching. He's a player who can do that.

"He can beat people, his goal-scoring record is improving - which is important - and he works hard for the team, chasing back and tackling. He is not just a winger."

The England manager added playing under Pep Guardiola at City would help Sterling's development even further. The Spaniard has repeatedly praised Sterling this season, insisting there was "no chance" the England international would be allowed to leave the Etihad Stadium following links with Arsenal.

"He is in a good place with his club, he is working with a good coach there and we have huge belief in him as well," Southgate added.

"He's not old at all, but he's at a moment where, like a lot of these guys, the next few years are very important to establish themselves as top players.

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"Their experiences at their clubs will only benefit them, training with top players and playing in the Champions League. The opportunities to improve are always there. He recognises that."

England host Slovenia at Wembley knowing that a win will ensure automatic qualification to next summer's World Cup, but the Three Lions could also earn a ticket to Russia if they draw against Slovenia and away against Lithuania on Sunday (8 October).

Even a point across the two games would be enough for Southgate's men, provided Slovakia do not win both of their remaining fixtures. The latter travel to Scotland on Thursday night, before hosting Malta in their final qualifier.

The Scots have themselves hopes of reaching the play-off stage but will have to win against Slovakia and then away against Slovenia in four days time.

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"Slovakia have good players, experienced players, and they've been together a long time, they're like a club side," said Scotland manager Gordon Strachan.

"They might not have the numbers, but when they put 16 or 17 together, they've got a right good side.

"Anyone with any knowledge in football will know how tough it's going to be [against] a team even England found difficult to beat.

"We've put together the basis of a team plan. The players themselves will determine how the game goes. It's all down to the players."

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