Sweden vs. Romania
Saturday 23rd March
Sweden may have reached the quarter-finals of the World Cup but as impressive as that achievement was, it’s worth remembering they benefited slightly from the fixtures they encountered.
They finished level on points during qualification with a below-par Netherlands outfit – who shot themselves in the foot with a defeat away in Bulgaria – and beat one of the weakest Italy sides in years during the play-offs to get to Russia.
Meanwhile, at the showpiece event itself they downed middling outfits South Korea, Mexico and Switzerland, but lost to heavyweights Germany and England.
They’ve followed up their summer exploits with some mixed results and were only narrowly promoted from their UEFA Nations League group featuring an ageing Russia and a poor Turkey side, so they’ll need to raise their game here.
Janne Andersson’s team certainly can’t leave any room for complacency with Romania taking big strides forwards since Cosmin Contra came in at the helm back in September 2017.
After some decent but not spectacular results at the end of that year, 2018 yielded some excellent performances as they won seven of 10 unbeaten matches, including friendly wins over Chile and Sweden themselves.
Admittedly, most of their fixtures under new management have come on home turf, but a 1-1 draw away to another Scandinavian outfit, Denmark, at the back end of the World Cup qualifiers suggests Sweden won’t have it all their own way.
The hosts are a poor W1-D3-L2 in front of their own fans since the end of the qualifiers, and worse still is their record without Victor Lindelof.
The centre-back has been one of our most consistent performers this term with Chris Smalling, Phil Jones and Eric Bailly battling it out to be his regular partner, but he’s rather strangely pulled out of the national squad with reports suggesting the decision was down to his mate John Guidetti not getting the call up.
Regardless of the truth of the matter, he’s absolutely crucial for the Swedes, who have only won two of the last 10 where he didn’t start (W2-D4-L4) and none of the last five such occasions.
Sweden don’t lose too many competitive games at home, but their reduced circumstances leave the visitors a good price to pick up a point.
*all odds are subject to change