When the 2018 UEFA World Cup qualifying groups were drawn, Group A looked like being a shootout between France and Netherlands for the top two spots. However, Sweden have thrown a spanner in the works by proving there is life after Zlatan Ibrahimovic and have a great chance of qualifying for Russia next year. They start this match in Bulgaria sitting top of top of Group A with 13 points to show for their efforts.
They are on the same number of points as second place France but have a superior goal difference to the French. Bulgaria welcome Sweden to Sofia sitting in fourth place in the group on 9 points. Netherlands are just above them on 10 points and a win in this match would leave them just a point behind Sweden and back in the race for qualification.
Bulgaria know they need to win this match because if they don’t they will have very little chance of claiming a top two place. However, home form has been good in recent World Cup qualifying matches and Bulgaria have won all 3 of their home World Cup qualifying games in Group A. They have defeated Luxembourg, Belarus and most recently Netherlands, the latter of which was a fantastic 2-0 home win.
Bulgaria have won their last 4 home competitive games in a row at home and look a tough team to beat on their own pitch. They have lost only 1 of their last 7 home competitive matches which was against Norway in 2015.
Sweden start this match at the top of the group but by no means in control as France, Netherlands and possibly Bulgaria sit in wait below them.
Sweden have won 4 and drawn 1 of their last 5 matches, including friendly games and their last match was a 1-1 draw with Norway in a friendly in June. Their biggest win in Group A of World Cup qualifying was the 2-1 home victory over France.
This has given Sweden the belief they can go on and win this group, securing automatic qualification to the World Cup finals in the process.
The only word of caution for Sweden is the fact they have played only 2 away games in the group, securing a narrow 1-0 win in Luxembourg and losing 2-1 in France.
Bulgaria need top goal scorer Ivelin Popov to be fit and on top form as they look to the Spartak Moscow striker for goals in this game. There are several players in their squad who could make their debut in this match including 21-year-old Kiril Despodov.
Sweden are likely to start the match with Marcus Berg and Ola Toivonen in attack. Central defender Andreas Granqvist will captain the team in what is likely to be a 4-4-2 formation with Emil Forsberg operating in midfield.
Top Betting Tips
Since the retirement of Ibrahimovic, Sweden have scored 8 goals in 5 away matches and have not failed to score at least once in any away game. However, they have conceded in 3 of those 5 away games and Bulgaria have scored in 8 of their last 10 at home.
Both teams to score is 6/5 with Bet365.
Although both teams may score in this match there is sure to be plenty of tension as France meet the Netherlands on the same night. Sweden will know that even if they take a point it could be a good result in the long term. The draw and both teams to score is 9/2 with Ladbrokes (Odds: www.online-betting.org).
Emil Forsberg has been a constant threat from midfield in this group and has already netted 3 goals. He will be a danger for Sweden in this match and can be backed at 11/4 with Ladbrokes to score at any time.