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Sweden set to take on injury-ridden England

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Sweden set to take on injury-ridden England
07:10 CET+01:00
Sweden will meet a much depleted England side for a friendly match at the new Friends Arena on Wednesday as Erik Hamrén's side looks to avenge last summer's loss to England at Euro 2012.

A raft of injury-enforced withdrawals means England coach Roy Hodgson has no choice but to experiment in his side's final game of 2012 away against Sweden.

Hodgson began his coaching career in Sweden, working at Halmstad, Örebro and Malmö, and he led England to a 3-2 win over Wednesday's opponents when they met in the group phase at Euro 2012 in June.

Like England, Sweden have made an unbeaten start to their 2014 World Cup qualifying campaign, and with coach Erik Hamrén having selected a strong squad, Hodgson says he anticipates a keenly contested match.

"I think the rivalry between Sweden and England has been a fierce one and Sweden have made life very difficult for England over the years," he told FATV.

"Their record against us is very good and they'll certainly be interested on this occasion to get some revenge for the defeat in the Euros."

Sweden's last outing saw them rally from four goals down to draw 4-4 with Germany in an unforgettable encounter in Berlin last month.

Paris Saint-Germain superstar Zlatan Ibrahimovic, the catalyst behind the comeback against the Germans, is expected to start against England, but Hamrén has hinted that he will also experiment.

"We have a team that is still inexperienced in a lot of positions," he said.

"To get as much game-time as possible together is the ambition. Now we have a change of stadium and we obviously want to win here, too."

Meanwhile, Hodgson finds himself with a number of holes to fill ahead of the Stockholm clash.

Wayne Rooney, Theo Walcott, Kyle Walker, Aaron Lennon and Jonjo Shelvey all pulled out of the squad on Sunday, after Ashley Cole, Joleon Lescott, James Milner, Frank Lampard and Jack Rodwell had already been declared unavailable.

The chief beneficiaries are likely to be the newcomers and the players on the periphery of Hodgson's plans for the 2014 World Cup.

Everton midfielder Leon Osman, Arsenal full-back Carl Jenkinson and 20-year-old Crystal Palace winger Wilfried Zaha have all been called up for the first time.

They join Spurs defender Steven Caulker, Chelsea left-back Ryan Bertrand, Stoke City centre-back Ryan Shawcross, Liverpool winger Raheem Sterling and Celtic goalkeeper Fraser Forster in hoping to be awarded a first cap.

Rooney's withdrawal, after he injured his ankle in Manchester United's 3-2 win at Aston Villa on Saturday, could open the door for Chelsea's Daniel Sturridge to win his first international start.

At the other end of the experience spectrum, Steven Gerrard is set to win his 100th cap when he leads the team out as captain at Stockholm's new Friends Arena.

The Liverpool man will become only the sixth man to reach the 100-cap threshold for England, after Peter Shilton, David Beckham, Bobby Moore, Bobby Charlton and Billy Wright.

He could be partnered in midfield by Jack Wilshere, who returns to the fold after a 17-month injury lay-off, although Hodgson has promised Arsenal coach Arsene Wenger that he will use the 20-year-old sparingly.

AFP/The Local

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