Larsson's Swedish warning

Published:
by Stuart Vose

Expect tough time, says winger.

Seb Larsson has warned that Sunderland won't have an easy ride when they head to his native Sweden this weekend.

Martin O'Neill's side fly to Scandinavia to play Allsvenskan champions Helsingborgs IF on Saturday as part of their pre-season preparations.

Helsingborg, in the south-west of the country, is around 500km from the town of Eskilstuna, where Larsson grew up prior to joining Arsenal.

The club have long been considered amongst Sweden's best and are still in with a chance of qualifying for this season's Champions League.

"The club are always there or thereabouts and won the Swedish league convincingly last season," Larsson said.

"They are a competitive team who work really hard, and they'll be fit and raring to go with the Champions League qualifiers coming up too.

"Obviously it's going to be tough for us but it's a good game, especially for me going back to Sweden."

Helsingborgs are currently fifth in the ultra-competitive Swedish top flight and are noted for their association with Swedish legend Henrik Larsson, who scored 50 goals in 56 games for the club as a youngster in 1992-93.

He returned to Olympia between 2006 and 2009, spending a short time on loan at Manchester United during that spell.

"They have a real reputation for bringing good youngsters through - after last season they sold three or four players to European leagues," Larsson added.

"It's a good setup going on across there and this will be a good game for us, definitely.

"I've never played in the Swedish league myself and I don't get the chance to watch too many games, but it's always tight.

"The fact that there have been seven different league winners in the last seven seasons shows that.

"The table changes every year and it's a tough league to predict. All the teams are organised and physically strong."

The Helsingborgs game is one of just three senior friendlies remaining before the big kick-off against Arsenal on August 18.

Sunderland travel to Npower Championship clubs Derby and Leicester next week, with Larsson hoping to figure as much as possible having only returned to training earlier this week.

"There's something different in every game; hopefully coming up against different kinds of opposition will only benefit us," he said.

"I'm looking forward to it and hopefully I can get some minutes under my belt as I obviously haven't played yet in pre-season."