Malta faces uphill task at the Friends Arena in Solna

After collecting three points in a 2-1 win over the Faroe Islands and a 0-2 loss to Spain, Malta plays its third match in Group F of the European Qualifiers leading to EURO 2020, facing Sweden at the Friends Arena in Solna on Friday, kick-off at 20:45.

Sweden earned four points from the opening matches thanks to a 2-1 win over Romania and a 3-3 draw with Norway away from home.

Facing Sweden has always been a tough nut to crack for Malta. In fact, Malta and Sweden met eleven times with the Swedish winning all eleven matches. Five of these matches were played on Swedish soil. In a World Cup qualifier in October 1972, Sweden won 7-0 in Goteborg and twelve years later, in May 1984, Sweden defeated Malta 4-0 in Norrkoping in another World Cup qualifier. In May 1987, it was an early goal by Johnny Ekstrom who made the whole difference in a EURO 88 qualifier in Goteborg.

Sweden registered a comfortable 6-0 win in Goteborg in a World Cup qualifier in June 2005 while in June 2009, Sweden defeated Malta 4-0 in another World Cup qualifier also in Goteborg. The only players still in squad from that match are Andrew Hogg and Jonathan Caruana.

In eleven matches, Sweden scored 42 goals and Malta two.

Addressing the media on Thursday, Malta coach Ray Farrugia urged the players to maintain a positive attitude.

“We no longer go into the games thinking only about not conceding goals. The mentality is changing and we need to keep working on this. In the last few matches, we’ve created chances and also scored goals.”

Farrugia announced that there could be two new faces in the starting line-up with these possibly being Jake Grech and Luke Montebello who would replace John Mintoff and Kyrian Nwoko.

One sure change is that of Matthew Guillaumier who is unavailable. His role should be taken by Rowen Muscat who started the last game on the bench.

Henry Bonello should start in goal with Steve Borg, Jonathan Caruana, Andrei Agius and Joseph Zerafa at the back, Joseph Mbong, Rowen Muscat, Jake Grech, Paul Fenech and Juan Corbalan in midfield with Luke Montebello up front.

Sweden vs Malta will be controlled by Irish officials – referee Rob Harvey, assistant referees Wayne McDonnell and Mark Gavin and fourth official Paul Mclaughlin.