Phil Jones is England’s best defender, according to manager Gareth Southgate.
Jones and central defensive partner Gary Cahill were largely untroubled against Malta last Friday, with England running out 4-0 winners to go two points clear of Monday night’s visitors Slovakia at the top of Group F.
The Manchester United defender was making just his seventh competitive outing for England, having made a further 15 appearances in international friendlies.
Jones will retain his place for Monday’s visit of Slovakia and Southgate is delighted he can once again call upon the 25-year-old centre-back, who has seen injury restrict him to just 24 Premier League starts in the last two seasons.
“Not just this season but there was a long period in the middle of last season where I think he has been the best defender,” Southgate said.
“He’s got very good composure on the ball. He’s got the reading of the game, he’s aggressive in his defending – which I like – and I think he has got fantastic experience, although he is still only relatively young.
“Obviously he has missed a lot of football. I remember watching him against Spain under Fabio [Capello] so we are going back quite a long way since he made his debut.
“He’s had great experiences with club and country. He organises well, he competes well so I’m delighted we’ve been able to involve him this time and it was clear the other night [against Malta] what he brings to the team.”
Jordan Henderson will skipper England for the second game running while Southgate will also keep faith with goalkeeper Joe Hart for England’s Wembley showdown with Slovakia.
Hart, who has conceded 10 goals in three Premier League games for West Ham this season, kept a clean sheet in England’s victory over Malta, who failed to register a single shot on target in the match.