Estadio da Luz, Lisbon
15 November, 19:45 BST
Portugal host Sweden in the highly anticipated World Cup qualifier fixture tomorrow at Estadio da Luz. The build-up to this crucial first leg have been around Cristiano Ronaldo and Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Both the players have been in awe-inspiring form in recent times and it would be shame that only one would make it to the World Cup next year.
Sweden have a wonderful record against Portugal and have lost only three of their last 15 meetings against them. The fact that Portugal have never managed to win in Sweden in their previous seven attempts, will be a cause for concern Paulo Bento, and he knows that his side need to get a substantial lead in the first leg at home.
The last three meetings between these two sides have ended in a draw, in fact Portugal last won against Sweden in 2002, in an international friendly when Rui Costa scored a later winner to give a memorable 3-2 win over Sweden. This two legged clash promises to be an exciting battle as Portugal look to qualify for their third consecutive World Cup.
Team News and tactics
Portugal endured a fairly disappointing qualification campaign as finished second behind Russia in Group F. Portugal were in a fairly easy group and were widely expected to win this and qualify comfortably for Brazil next year, but they left themselves in a mess after dropping points against the likes of Israel and Northern Ireland.
Portugal are coming into this match on the back of a 3-0 win over Luxembourg as Varela, Nani and Postiga got on the score-sheet for the home side. Paulo Bento was without a lot of big names for that game and is expected to make a lot of changes to the starting line-up that he fielded against Luxembourg.
Bento doesn’t have too many injury concerns to contain with ahead of this fixture. There are some doubts about the fitness of Real Madrid left back Fabio Coentrao, but he is expected to recover in time and feature against Sweden. Joao Pereira will replace Almeida at the right back, while Pepe and Bruno Alves resume their partnership at the center of the defence. Meiresles didn’t feature against Luxembourg, but the former Liverpool midfielder will feature alongside Moutinho and Veloso in the game. Bento will use his favoured 4-3-3 formation with Ronaldo and Nani supporting Postiga upfront.
Although Ronaldo will be Portugal’s biggest threat in attack, the role of Moutinho in this side cannot be undermined. The 27-year-old made a hattrick of assists in the match against Luxembourg and has been in good form for Monaco since his big money move to the French club. His ability to create will be crucial for Paulo Bento’s side.
Expected starting line-up (4-3-3): Patricio (GK); Pereira, Pepe, Alves, Coentrao; Moutinho, Veloso, Meireles; Nani, Postiga, Ronaldo
Sweden have had a fairly satisfactory qualification campaign and have done what was expected of them – came second behind Germany in Group C. Like Portugal, they won six of their 10 qualification fixtures, but the fact that they managed to score seven goals in their two games against the German side would have given Erik Hamren a lot of confidence about his side’s attacking prowess ahead of this fixture.
Sweden are coming into this game on the back of a 3-5 defeat at the hands of Germany at Stockholm in their last qualification fixture. The home side took a 2-0 lead in the first half, but ended up losing the game in the second half despite a wonderful brace from Hysen. But the performance showed that they can compete with best even without Zlatan in the team, although Germany did field a fairly weakened side.
Erik Hamren has a fully fit squad to choose from ahead of this game and he is expected to make a lot of the changes to the side he fielded against Germany in their last game. There is also expected to be a change in tactics, where Hamren will switch to a more conservative 4-5-1 in the first leg away from home. He has used Elmander and Ibrahimovic together upfront, but the former is likely to be dropped to the bench for this game.
Mikael Lustig will replace Pierre Bengtsson at the right back, while Per Nilsson Antonsson will start in the center of the defence. Kacaniklic, who has been used on the left, will move to the right wing with Pontus Wernbloom starts on the other wing. Rasmus Elm, Sebastian Larsson and Anders Svensson will start at the center of the park. Sweden’s main threat, Zlatan Ibrahimovic will lead the line along with leading the hope for getting a positive result in this game.
Expected starting line-up (4-5-1): Isaksson (GK); Lustig, Antonsson, Nilsson, Olsson; Kacaniklic, Elm, Larsson, Svensson, Wernbloom; Ibrahimovic
Players to watch out for: Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal); Zlatan Ibrahimovic (Sweden)
Prediction: Portugal 2-1 Sweden