Sports Mole previews Tuesday’s Nations League match between Sweden and Slovenia, including predictions, team news and possible lineups.
In a fight to avoid relegation to UEFA Nations Leaguethird level, Sweden and Slovenia clash in Stockholm on Tuesday evening.
The hosts must win to retain their place in League B after a disappointing Group 4 campaign so far, any other result would see the Slovenians stay up at their expense.
A hangover from failing to qualify for Qatar 2022 has lingered into the autumn for 2018 World Cup quarter-finalists Sweden as their latest Nations League outing brought a fourth straight defeat.
Jan Anderssons side followed an opening win over Slovenia with three defeats in the summer – two at the hands of their Nordic rivals Norway – and were beaten for the second time by Serbia on Saturday.
Even though you walk through Viktor Claessons early goal in Belgrade, the hosts’ star striker Aleksandar Mitrovic then rattled off a hat-trick as the Swedes were consigned to a 4-1 reverse – not the ideal response to Andersson’s call for a ‘back-to-basics’ approach.
His side have now conceded 10 times in five Nations League games so far, and their long-standing reputation as cautious but competent opponents appears to have been eroded in recent months.
Previously eliminated in the play-offs for Qatar by Poland, Blagult must now focus on doing everything to avoid a demoralizing relegation to Europe’s third tier.
Having been relegated from League A last time out, such a fate would fuel further angst in a nation used to testing the top teams in international competition – including during the now distant trip to the last eight in Russia four years ago.
After starting the Nations League’s first edition by finishing bottom of their League C group without a win in six games, Slovenia only reached the second tier last year, thanks to winning their section ahead of Greece.
Most pundits’ outsiders to survive a competitive Group 4 this time around, they have defied expectations to take a total of four points from leaders Norway, following a 2-1 win in Ljubljana at the weekend.
Although Erling HaalandThe 21st international goal put the visitors on course for promotion to League A just after half-time the Slovenians hit back as strikes from potent front pair Andraz Spurs and Benjamin Sesko – the latter currently following in Haaland’s footsteps at RB Salzburg – handed the Norwegians a first defeat.
One of only two losses so far for Matjaz Keks men came home to Sweden on the opening matchday: a 2-0 reverse at Stadion Stozice is also one of just three from their last eleven.
They therefore head to Stockholm with a great chance of avoiding relegation, and their fate lies in their own hands with 90 minutes to play.
After enduring a tough time in World Cup qualifying, where they finished fourth in their group, the world’s 65th-ranked nation would consider such a performance a significant success, before they embark on the long road to Euro 2024.
Sweden Nations League form:
Sweden form (all competitions):
Slovenia’s Nations League form:
Slovenia form (all competitions):
As they are without the Newcastle United striker Alexander Isakafter he pulled out of the squad last week, Sweden should once again turn to Coventry City’s Viktor Gyokeres ahead, despite the latter’s modest haul of two international goals so far.
Personnel changes may be underway in other areas, however, as Janne Andersson reacts to his side’s capitulation in Serbia, with Kristoffer Olsson and Anthony Elanga both pressing claims to be included in the starting XI.
Isak Hien had a difficult debut on Saturday and was booked when he played a role in the defense that leaked four goals, but with Philip Helander, Carl Starfelt and Alexander Milosevic all unavailable this month, the Hellas Verona man could find himself at centre-back.
Meanwhile, Slovenia will have to make two forced changes to a winning team, after Jasmin Kurtic and Andraz Sporar both received yellow cards against Norway and are therefore suspended.
Italy-based duo Judgment Crnigoj and Sandy Lovric are set to fight for selection in place of the former, while the latter’s absence could leave Salzburg star Benjamin Sesko plowing a lone furrow up front.
Alternatively Miha Zajc or Luka Zahovic – son of the Slovenians’ best goalscorer of all time Zlatko Zahovic – could support the teenager in attack.
Sweden’s possible starting line-up:
Olsen; Andersson, Lindelof, Hien, Augustinsson; Olsson, Svanberg, Forsberg; Kulusevski, Gyokeres, Claesson
Slovenia’s possible starting line-up:
Oblak; Karnicnik, Bijol, Blazic, Brekalo; Stojanovic, Cerin, Lovric, Verbic; Zajc; Sesko
We say: Sweden 2-1 Slovenia
Although they may struggle to keep clean sheets, having conceded at a rate of two goals per game in their last five games, Sweden can clinch Liga B survival on the final day. If some talented forwards can click, the hosts will knock out a Slovenian side missing two top players through suspension.
For data analysis of the most likely results, scorelines and more for this match, click here.