Spain vs Sweden | Monday 14th June 2020, 20:00 | BBC
Group E favourites Spain start their Euro 2020 against Sweden in heat of Seville. However, both sides have had their preparations hampered due to Covid-19.
Sergio Busquets tested positive forcing La Roja to miss their final warm-up against Lithuania. Instead, several Under-21s made their full debuts in a comfortable win. While Leeds Utd’s Diego Llorente also tested positive in the build-up but has since had a few negative tests.
The Spanish team and officials were vaccinated on Thursday, but their training and preparations had to be put on hold – not ideal heading into a major tournament.
A lot was also made of Luis Enrique’s selection – no Sergio Ramos, no Real Madrid players and the inclusion of Aymeric Laporte after he switched allegiances.
Sweden have had their own issues to deal with. Both Dejan Kulusevski and Mattias Svenberg have returned positive Covid tests meaning they’re out of this one, while Pontus Jansson is also a doubt after missing a few training sessions.
Quarter-finalists at the 2018 World Cup, Janne Andersson’s side will look to build on that successful campaign. They’ll be stubborn and tough to break down, looking to hit Spain on the counter, with the exciting Real Sociedad forward Alexander Isak leading the line.
The Blue-Yellows will have to be on their mettle to deal with the intensity of the Spanish possession, as well as the Iberians press. Andersson will hope his 4-4-2, low block can contain and frustrate their hosts.
Will conditions play a part?
Spain have home advantage for all three group games, which is a major boost. The fact they don’t need to acclimatise to the heat of Seville – unlike their opponents – is likely to have an impact the longer this goes, especially after the non-stop league campaigns over the last 18 months.
An evening kick-off should see cooler conditions with temperatures dropping from highs of 33 degrees Celsius during the day to around 19 degrees Celsius in the evening.
A few of the Swedes play their club football in La Liga but with the way Spain play keep-ball and will knock the ball around, could see mental fatigue and lapses in concentration, as well as any tiredness physically.
When these two met in qualifying, the game in Madrid finished 3-0 to La Roja. Yet, that doesn’t tell the whole story, with the game goalless after an hour. Two Spain penalties converted by the omitted Ramos and Alvaro Morata, as well as a late strike from Mikel Oyarzarbal made the scoreline look comfortable.
58% of Spain’s goals (18 of 31) in Euro 2020 qualifying came after the break, so I did consider taking the 4/5 on Spain to win the second half, but with the way they should dictate the tempo of proceedings then they’ll wear down this Swedish defence.
Will Spain bring their shooting boots?
With Sweden likely to sit in to try and frustrate Spain, it might be worth looking at the hosts to get a high number of shots off.
La Roja’s 4-3-3 with Ferran Torres and Dani Olmo two livewires, who should create plenty for whoever Enrique decides to play through the middle – Alvaro Morata or Gerard Moreno. Plus, Adama Traoré could have an impact in bursts off the bench, while a few are touting Pedri to play a pivotal role at times.
Since the 2018 World Cup, Spain have averaged the most shots per game of all 24 Euro 2020 nations when it comes to competitive games. That is reflected by some of the tallies they racked up during qualifying, as well as their World Cup Qualifying game against Kosovo.
Obviously, facing the likes of Malta and Faroe Islands inflate these numbers, but in their home Euro 2020 qualifiers, they hit 32, 30, 26, 23 & 21.
The 23 came in their 3-0 win over Sweden, while the reverse fixture at the Friends Arena, Solna, saw them have 15 attempts.
More recently in March, they hit 24 shots, 11 of those on target against Kosovo, so it’s clear to see Enrique’s entertaining philosophy wearing off on the Iberians.
At the time of writing, only Sky Bet have the shots market priced up and they go EVS for 16+. We’ve already seen Italy open with 24 shots against a passive Turkey. I’m not expecting Sweden to be that negative, but there should be opportunities for La Roja to get their shots away.
If the Swedes deploy a low block, they could be a tough nut to crack but Spain do have the players to find the gaps – and there’s plenty of strength in depth. So, I’ll take these two plays in Seville.