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These are the two nations that seem to have had their preparation disrupted the most so far. Both nations have had two players who’ve contracted COVID, with Sergio Busquets and Diego Llorente out for Luis Enrique’s side and Dejan Kulusevski and Mattias Svanberg missing for the Swedes.
It’s almost fitting that they face each other in their opening fixture, with the possibility that all four players can return from the second round onwards.
The Spaniards have great pedigree in this competition, especially in recent editions as they’ve won two of the last three, though the most recent of those came nine years ago now and they’re a completely different outfit to what they were back then.
In truth, they’ve still only lost one of their last 24 matches since the inaugural Nations League in 2018, but since the return after the COVID enforced break last year, they’ve won less than half of their 13 matches, while one of those came earlier this week against Lithuania when fielding a back-up side.
A 6-0 win against Germany back in November was certainly a highlight, though draws against the likes of Switzerland, Netherlands and Greece don’t exactly set the pulses racing, and they’ve also lost to the Ukraine in that run so this certainly isn’t a foregone conclusion.
Sweden +1 Handicap
After a poor Nations League campaign in which Sweden lost five of their six matches, they’ve now started to pick up some momentum.
In fairness, they were in a group with France, Portugal and Croatia, getting a victory over the latter while the first two are in much better nick than Spain at this moment in time. It’s now five wins on the bounce for the Blagult and they’ve conceded just once in that time.
That shouldn’t come as a surprise though with those games coming against Georgia, Kosovo, Estonia, Finland, and Armenia, and while those results will have little bearing on this game, their performances will serve as a good confidence boost.
The head-to-heads also aren’t exactly as favourable to the Spaniards as one would have thought easier, with them winning just half of their 10 meetings with Sweden, going W3-D2-L1 this century with the most recent meeting finishing 1-1 in October 2019, and we’d certainly expect another close encounter here.
Spain have only won one of their last five opening games in major competitions, going W1-D2-L2, despite winning the trophy at the end of two of those and with preparation almost as disrupted as it was for the World Cup three years ago, the double chance for Sweden looks the best value here.