England Under-21 manager Stuart Pearce hopes to start a solid run of form ahead of this summer's UEFA European Under-21 Championship finals in Israel when his side face Sweden next month.

The Young Lions, who have recently used Saints right back Nathaniel Clyne, will begin their preparations when they play Sweden Under-21s on February 5 at Banks's Stadium, Walsall, in their first fixture of the year.

Pearce's team performed well during 2012, securing their place in the European finals by winning all six of their games and he is keen to build on that.

"2012 was a good year for us," Pearce said. "Defensively we were very strong not conceding a goal, while we created a lot of chances. The squad evolved too, so we saw a lot of players during the year illustrating the depth we have.

"We hope the game in Walsall will give us the chance to start this year where we left off in November as we build towards Israel.

"We need to start the year well and take a solid run of form forward as we build for June and beyond.

"I expect Sweden will come with a younger side, and for us we'll probably have one or two players who have done extremely well over the winter period."

England last played Sweden in the semi-finals of the 2009 tournament, finally winning on penalties after their 3-0 lead was cancelled out.