England Women will look to bounce back from a first defeat in 11 matches when they take on their Sweden counterparts on Tuesday in their second and final fixture of the 2017 La Manga tournament.
The Lionesses suffered their first loss in 10 months on Sunday after they dropped 1-0 at the hands of Norway, who have won both their friendly outings at the competition based in Murcia, Spain.
Manager Mark Sampson's side have had just two days to prepare for their tournament-closer against the Swedes, who will either benefit from having three extra days' rest or feel it as a burden in maintaining game fitness.
Both teams will take to the Pinatar Arena on Tuesday hoping to end their tournament on a high, as they prepare for the UEFA Women's Euro 2017 tournament in July.
Read on for a preview of Tuesday's encounter, complete with fixture information and a prediction of who will come out on top in Murcia.
Date: Tuesday, January 24
Time: 5 p.m. GMT/12 p.m. ET
Venue: Pinatar Arena, Murcia, Spain
|England Women vs. Sweden Women Form Guide|
|Norway 1-0 England||Norway 1-2 Sweden|
|Netherlands 0-1 England||Norway 0-0 Sweden|
|Spain 1-2 England||Sweden 7-0 Iran|
|England 0-0 France||Denmark 2-0 Sweden|
|Belgium 0-2 England||Sweden 2-1 Slovakia|
England Under Unfamiliar Pressure
After sailing through 2016 with only two losses, the Lionesses' 2017 campaign got off to an unfavourable start after Ada Hegerberg consigned Sampson's side to a 1-0 defeat in their La Manga opener on Sunday.
England's defence was exploited from a free-kick midway through the first half, and the team's official Twitter account provided highlights of a somewhat forgettable outing from the Lionesses:
Norway 1-0 England Ada Hegerberg's header consigned our #Lionesses to a first defeat in 11 matches: https://t.co/0VNL7MeL6Z2017-1-23 07:10:00
Sampson made an outside-the-box decision to bring in Chelsea defender Hannah Blundell as a replacement for injured striker Danielle Carter prior to the Sweden clash, per women's football writer Rich Laverty:
Rich Laverty @RichJLaverty
Arsenal striker @DanielleCarter is out of tomorrow's match against Sweden. Chelsea's @HanBlundell has joined the squad in La Manga today.2017-1-23 12:13:16
It was in the first half of last year that England suffered their last defeat prior to Sunday, and it doesn't bode well for Sampson's side that that 2-1 loss to Germany was also half of a back-to-back loss double.
The results in La Manga may not have any real impact on England's success or silverware prospects, but a win over Sweden—ranked eighth in the world—could provide a welcome boost for the remainder of the year.
The Battle to Bounce Back
It's a win for the underdog to see Norway—the lowest-ranked among the three teams present in Murcia—beating both Sweden and England in La Manga already, evidence that form is only ever temporary.
Women's football writer Kieran Theivam recently put the magnitude of England's recent loss into context, bringing an end to their almost year-long unbeaten streak:
Kieran Theivam @KiersTheivam
England's first defeat since loss to Germany at She Believes Cup comes after 1-0 loss to Norway. @AdaStolsmo with the only goal of the game.2017-1-22 18:50:58
Suffering back-to-back losses again this year threatens to stunt the rest of the Lionesses' 2017, hence the need for a result, and Laverty noted the task that lies ahead in what's become a more tense meeting:
Rich Laverty @RichJLaverty
Sweden an important game now, need some momentum back and they looked a bit disjointed against Norway.2017-1-22 20:31:01
But Sweden will be full of fervour to reclaim their own run of form, having won just two in their last six matches and going two matches without victory following a draw and a defeat—both against Norway.
La Manga may be a friendly setting with little in terms of risk, but two teams scrambling to recover lost confidence could make for a few fireworks on Tuesday, where England look the more resilient team based on form.
Prediction: England 2-1 Sweden