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Jun 18, 2021 at 2pm UK
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Preview: Sweden vs. Slovakia - prediction, team news, lineups

:Headline: Preview: Sweden vs. Slovakia - prediction, team news, lineups:
Sports Mole previews Friday's European Championship clash between Sweden and Slovakia, including predictions, team news and possible lineups.
Sports Mole

Following positive results in their opening games at Euro 2020, on Friday, Sweden and Slovakia meet in St Petersburg, with a win set to seal progress for either side.

Having failed to reach the knockout stages since 2004, the Swedes will want to build on a point taken from Group E favourites Spain, in order to reach the last 16.

Match preview

Benefiting from a disciplined defensive effort in holding Spain to a goalless draw in their first fixture, Sweden come into their second full of confidence and in a strong position to qualify.

With Victor Lindelof receiving the award as UEFA's man of the match in Seville, Janne Andersson's side were mostly on the back foot - with a competition record of just 15% possession - but also offered a threat at the other end, as Real Sociedad forward Alexander Isak hit the post and then later found Marcus Berg, who spurned a fine chance to snatch all three points.

Incidentally, Isak's goal in a friendly against the Swedes' next opponents Slovakia - back in 2017, aged just 17 - made him the youngest ever player to score a senior international goal for the Nordic nation. Now, in the absence of their 39-year-old talisman Zlatan Ibrahimovic, it is likely to be the young striker's responsibility to break down the Slovakian defence on Friday.

After battling gamely for a point won almost under siege, possession is likely to be more even between two well-matched sides at the Krestovsky Stadium and - with the Blagult having won five of their last six matches - head coach Andersson will expect to put one foot in the final stages by turning over a team to whom Sweden have never lost before.

In fact, they have met Slovakia on five previous occasions altogether - winning twice - while the other three (including the two most recent meetings) ended in draws.

Slovakia continue their residency in Russia's cultural capital for this second Group E game, after a 2-1 victory over 10-man Poland in their tournament opener last week.

Inter centre-back Milan Skriniar's beautifully controlled 20-yard shot on the turn secured a famous win for the Falcons, as they pursue a repeat of their progress to the last 16 in France five years ago.

Following that successful debut as an independent nation, a squad which had experienced managerial upheaval and underwhelming form in recent times looked unlikely to emerge from a challenging section this time around.

In all, since the qualifiers ended over a year ago, Slovakia's form has slumped. Under Pavel Hapal and then current coach Stefan Tarkovic, a transitional team had won only two of their previous 13 matches within 90 minutes; dropping four points against Cyprus and Malta at the start of the Qatar 2022 qualifying campaign in March.

Ahead of this potentially decisive game, however, Tarkovic will have fond memories of meeting the Swedes, with a 1-1 draw in Stockholm three years ago being his first game in charge of his nation - taking to the dugout as caretaker manager following Jan Kozak's departure.

After predecessor Hapal left his post before the Euro 2020 playoff final, Tarkovic again stepped up - overseeing an extra-time win away to Northern Ireland to seal a place at this summer's finals - and now leads some vastly experienced troops into a crucial clash.

Though younger players have now started to break through, five veterans of Slovakia's 2010 World Cup campaign are still present some 11 years later, as Vladimir Weiss, Peter Pekarik, Juraj Kucka, Dusan Kuciak and inspirational captain Marek Hamsik are all fulfilling their national duty once again.

In fact, skipper Hamsik joined Sweden's IFK Goteborg on a short-term contract in March, in order to gain fitness, so will now go head-to-head with some familiar faces on Friday, in an encounter set to be rich in international nous and know-how.

Sweden European Championship form:
  • D

Sweden form (all competitions):
  • W
  • W
  • W
  • W
  • W
  • D

Slovakia European Championship form:
  • W

Slovakia form (all competitions):
  • D
  • D
  • W
  • D
  • D
  • W

Team News

Sweden boss Janne Andersson is not renowned as a risk-taker but may allow his midfield quartet to contribute more creativity than was apparent in the gritty draw versus Spain.

Therefore, RB Leipzig midfielder Emil Forsberg may be given greater license to join the attack, or even be moved to a more central position to ease some of the attacking burden on Alexander Isak's shoulders, with Viktor Claesson a possible addition on the left flank.

Certainly, the Swedes will set up in some variation of their tried and tested 4-4-2 formation, with Isak being joined up front by veteran target man Marcus Berg.

Two Serie A-based players will boost their options, meanwhile, as Dejan Kulusevski of Juventus and Bologna's Mattias Svanberg have both been cleared to return to action after recently self-isolating with COVID-19.

Slovakia skipper Marek Hamsik, who previously led his nation at both the 2010 World Cup and Euro 2016, earned a record-extending 127th cap after shaking off a calf problem to face Poland and is expected to be fit enough to start again.

However, defender Denis Vavro tested positive for COVID-19 and has entered a period of quarantine, with coach Stefan Tarkovic now hoping that the infection will not decimate his team.

Vavro aside, only Slavia Prague forward Ivan Schranz could be missing for Stefan Tarkovic's men, due to a thigh injury sustained in a pre-tournament friendly. In his continued absence, wide men Robert Mak and Lukas Haraslin are expected to support 'false nine' Ondrej Duda up front, with young Feyenoord prospect Robert Bozenik hoping to be involved from the bench after missing out last time.

Sweden possible starting lineup:
Olsen; Lustig, Lindelof, Danielson, Augustinsson; S. Larsson, Ekdal, Olsson, Forsberg; Isak, Berg

Slovakia possible starting lineup:
Dubravka; Pekarik, Satka, Skriniar, Hubocan; Kucka, Benes; Haraslin, Hamsik, Mak; Duda

We say: Sweden 1-0 Slovakia

An abundance of goals is not on the menu in St Petersburg, as both teams are capable of packing the midfield and neither will be overly concerned if they only pick up a point.

Sweden, however, can offer a handful of final-third talent that may just see them over the line - sewing up a place in the knockout phase in the process.

Top tip

Our expert tipster partners at Sporita.com are predicting a double chance bet on a home win or an away win in this match. Click here to find out what else they are predicting for this game and for more of their tried-and-tested football tips.Home/Away:data

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