Sweden welcome Spain in what could be a pivotal game in either side’s hopes of qualifying automatically for the 2022 FIFA World Cup.
After a summer fuelled with action and drama, international football returns this week as the FIFA World Cup 2022 qualifiers are set to take centre stage. With much at stake here, Spain travel to Stockholm to take on Sweden in a massive UEFA Group B clash.
The Iberian giants are currently top of the group with seven points from three games. Sweden, meanwhile, are in the second spot with six points, having played a game less. The game is a winner-take-all contest where three points for either side will see them top the group on the night.
The other countries in the group are Greece, Georgio and Kosovo – three sides that should not present either Spain or Sweden many problems, at least on paper. The head to head games between both the countries could eventually determine who finishes top of the group.
With a ticket to the world cup on offer, the stakes are high this week. It promises to be an intriguing contest between two teams who fell short at the Euros. Whether Spain can put their penalty shootout heartbreak against Italy behind them and focus o the job at hand remains to be seen.
Team News & Tactics
Janne Andersson’s 26-man squad for Sweden’s upcoming games includes the likes of Manchester United star Victor Lindelof, RB Leipzig’s Emil Forsberg and the exciting Juventus forward Dejan Kulusevski. While the Swedish squad is not the strongest out there, they possess some key players who are bonafide match winners.
The Swedes will be without defender Marcus Danielsen. The 32-year-old is suspended for the game after picking up a red card in their Last 16 exit at the hands of Ukraine at the Euros. Lindelof, who has been named the captain of the national team, is certain to start in the heart of the defence and could be joined by Rangers star Filip Helander.
Robin Olsen should get the nod in goal while Emil Krafth and Ludwig Augustinsson look set to feature as the full-backs. It is arguably on the flanks that the Swedes pack a punch. Emil Forsberg and Dejan Kulusevski are talented players who can make a difference on their nights. Just how well Spain cope against them could help determine the game’s outcome.
Forsberg was the standout performer for the Swedes at the Euros, scoring four goals in four games. As the senior winger, the onus will be on him to lead the charge. Real Sociedad ace Alexander Isak was impressive at the Euros and will look to keep his good run going upfront alongside Jordan Larsson.
Sweden could be set to deploy a classic 4-4-2 that will help get the best out of their wingers. The centre will look to maintain a rigid shape and close down avenues for Spain to pass out from. Cutting the passing lanes could cripple Luis Enrique’s side’s ability to get the ball up the field and into space. A lot will depend on Kristoffer Olsson and Albin Ekdal’s ability to stunt the Spanish midfield.
Probable Lineup (4-4-2): Olsen; Krafth, Lindelof, Helander, Augustinsson; Kulusevski, Ekdal, Olsson, Forsberg; Larsson, Isak
La Roja have called up 24 players to the national team for the set of fixures. Pedri has been left out of the team after playing over 70 games for club and country over the past year, the most of anyone in Europe.
The trio of Pau Torres, Mikel Oyarzabal and Dani Olmo have been omitted as well while Liverpool midfielder Thiago Alcantara, Atletico Madrid’s Diego Llorente and Napoli ace Fabian Ruiz have also been excluded. West Ham United’s Pablo Fornals returns to the fold, having last been called up in 2018.
Despite the absentees, Luis Enrique’s side is comfortably the better team on paper. Whether that will translate onto the pitch remains to be seen. Unai Simon started ahead of David de Gea in goal at the Euros. However, the Manchester United superstar has shown good form and could be set for a recall.
With Pau Torres unavailable, Eric Garcia and Aymeric Laporte look set to form the centre-back pairing. They will be flanked by the experienced duo of Cesar Azpilicueta and Jordi Alba.
Veteran midfielder Sergio Busquets is a sure shot to start and will be joined by Koke and Mikel Merino on either side of him. Ferran Torres has impressed in recent weeks and looks set to start on current form. The enigmatic Alvaro Morata could be set to lead the attack while Adama Traore could slot in on the left.
The Wolves ace caused Manchester United endless problems last weekend but failed to make his chances count. A physically dominant presence, him running at the Swedish defence could open channels for Morata and Torres to filter into. Whether as a starter or off the bench, Traore is a major threat for the Swedish defence.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): De Gea; Azpilicueta, Garcia, Laporte, Alba; Merino, Busquets, Koke; Torres, Morata, Traore
- Both sides have met 15 times, with Spain winning six and Sweden three.
- Sweden have kept a clean sheet in seven of their last nine matches.
- Spain are on a five-match unbeaten run against Sweden in all competitions
- Both sides were drawn in the same group at Euro 2020, with the game ending in a 0-0.
Player to Watch
Emil Forsberg (Sweden)
The Swedish winger is by far his nation’s most potent attacking threat. He is coming off a strong summer that saw him net four goals at the Euros. While Sweden may have disappointed, Forsberg shone brightly.
He is likely to come up against the ageing Cesar Azpilicueta on the flank on Thursday. The Chelsea ace packs a punch but his lack of pace is something Forsberg could exploit. Good at making through balls and stringing in dangerous passes, the likes of Isak and Larsson will have opportunities to run through if Forsberg gets going. The 29-year-old is also a threat on set-pieces and could be set for a big night in Stockholm.
Sweden 1-1 Spain
Spain, on paper, are comfortably the better side, despite having a host of names missing. Sweden, however, are a team to be reckoned with at home and make up for the lack of quality with effort, as was seen when they held La Roja to a goalless draw at the UEFA Euro 2020 earlier this year. With many more matches yet to come in the group stages of the WC Qualifiers, both teams may play it safe and could settle for a point.