Russia host Sweden in Moscow in a friendly on Thursday as the international break gets underway in Europe this week.

2018 FIFA World Cup hosts Russia will get the chance to warm up ahead of their upcoming UEFA Nations League matches as they lock horns with Sweden in an international on Sunday, at the VEB Arena in Moscow.

The Russians have had a fantastic start to their UEFA Nations League campaign, winning their first two matches. But, they do have tricky games against Turkey and Hungary coming up, although they have appeared quite lucky to be drawn in a relatively easier group, consisting of these three teams and Serbia.

Their midweek opponent Sweden weren’t so lucky, having been drafted with European Championship winner Portugal, World Cup winner France and World Cup finalist Croatia. They have already lost their opening two matches and are due to play Croatia and Portugal in this international break.

A trip to Moscow on Thursday, therefore, could serve as an opportunity for Sweden coach Janne Anderson to get his structure before these difficult matches while the hosts Russia will mainly be looking to provide chances to few of their lesser-known stars. And here, at The Hard Tackle, we will run the rule over these two teams ahead of this fascinating encounter in Moscow this midweek.

Tactics & Team News

Russia

Russia head coach Stanislav Cherchesov has called up a number of interesting players heading into this game but is missing out on key stars like Aleksandr Golovin and Fyodor Smolov due to injury.

Those absences are unlikely to affect the first-team, however, with Artem Dzyuba more than likely to spearhead the Russian attack, with additional support from Anton Miranchuk, Aleksey Ionov and 2018 FIFA World Cup hero Denis Cheryshev.

The likes of Daler Kuzyaev, Zelimkhan Bakaev and Aleksandr Sobolev are also options from the bench, as far as the attacking department is concerned.

In midfield, Cherchesov could once again persist with the combination of Roman Zobnin and Magomed Ozdoev, who scored in their last win over Hungary. The experienced Yuri Gazinskiy is another option for the hosts, should they opt for a more defensive approach.

As for the defence, we could witness a back-four, which should be led by Andrey Semenov and Georgi Dzhikiya, while Mario Fernandes and Fedor Kudryashov should occupy the full-back positions.

Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Shunin; Fernandes, Semenov, Dzhikiya, Kudryashov; Ozdoev, Zobnin; Ionov, Miranchuk, Cheryshev; Dzyuba

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Sweden

Sweden have been dealt with a few absentees heading into this game as striker Sebastian Andersson has rescinded from the team due to an injury.

No replacement will be called in for 1.FC Koln forward while Werder Bremen left-back Ludwig Augustinsson and Juventus star Dejan Kulusevski have both missed the training are not available for this clash. Sweden coach Andersson does have a fit squad otherwise, with the 58-year-old likely to persist with his tried and tested 4-4-2 formation.

The absence of target man Andersson means there could be a start for 1.FSV Mainz forward Robin Quaison, who could feature alongside star striker Alexander Isak. These two will lead the Swedish attack, with additional support from wide midfielders in Viktor Claesson and Emil Forsberg, who has been in great form in the Bundesliga this season.

Youngster Mattias Svanberg could be given an opportunity in central midfield, operating in the double-pivot alongside Kristoffer Olsson with Albin Ekdal providing further options for Andersson on the bench.

And finally, in defence, we could expect Manchester United star Victor Lindelof to start alongside Filip Helander despite a poor start to the Premier League campaign. Augustinsson, meanwhile, will be deputised by Martin Olsson, with Emil Krafth operating on the opposite flank and Robin Olsen starting in goal.

Probable Lineup (4-4-2): Olsen; Krafth, Helander, Lindelof, Olsson; Forsberg, Svanberg, Olsson, Claesson; Quaison, Isak

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Key Stats

  • Sweden have the upper hand in terms of head to head between these two teams, winning four games compared to Russia’s two.
  • Russia have won five of their last six games, with the only loss coming to Belgium last November.
  • The visitor Sweden has been unbeaten in the recent two meetings.
  • Sweden were in a six-game unbeaten run prior to their defeat to France in the UEFA Nations League in September.
  • Russia have scored three or more goals in all of their last six matches across all competitions.

Player to Watch

Emil Forsberg

Emil Forsberg will be key to Sweden's chances against England. (Photo courtesy: AFP/Getty)

Emil Forsberg will be key to Sweden’s chances against Russia. (Photo courtesy: AFP/Getty)

Following a couple of disappointing seasons, Forsberg has managed to rediscover his mojo under Julian Nagelsmann this season. He has, in fact, emerged as a key outlet in the creative unit, moving ahead of Christopher Nkunku in the pecking order. He has already been involved in four goals in just three Bundesliga matches so far.

It makes him one of the most in-form players heading into this fixture and the 28-year-old will undoubtedly be Sweden’s creator-in-chief as they look to break the shackles of the Russian defence.  It will also be interesting to see how Forsberg teams up Quaison, who also plays in the Bundesliga.

But needless to say, it is Forsberg who will remain the focal point of the Swedish attack. His performance could go a long way in dictating his country’s fate not only in this game but also in the upcoming UEFA Nation League fixtures.

Prediction

Russia 2-0 Sweden

Russia has been formidable over the past couple of years, emerging as a strong footballing nation. And so they are the undisputed favourite heading into this game, especially with the home advantage. Hence, we expect them to seal a rather comfortable 2-0 win in Moscow this midweek.

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