Sweden vs. Argentina: Complete Preview, Team News as Messi Takes on Ibrahimovic
Sweden vs. Argentina places two of the world's greatest forwards against each other. Back in 2009, Zlatan Ibrahimovic suggested Lionel Messi could play for Sweden if the Argentinian press continued to criticise Messi's performances (via Goal.com).
Despite the loveable Swede's wishes, the pair are set to do battle on February 6 at the Friends Arena in Solna, Sweden.
The hosts have been in excellent form recently. Erik Hamren's team came back from 4-0 down to draw 4-4 against a stunned Germany outfit. While the Germans sit three points clear of Sweden in World Cup qualifying Group C, the industrious yellows have a game in hand.
Sweden followed up the impressive away result with a 4-2 victory over Roy Hodgson's England, a game forever remembered for Ibrahimovic's outrageous bicycle kick.
Argentina currently lead the way to World Cup 2014 from a South American standpoint. One loss in nine games sees Alejandro Sabella's side currently atop the CONMEBOL standings by three points (via FIFA.com).
Sweden Team News:
An experienced Swedish squad has been assembled to tackle Argentina's relentless attacking style. Andreas Granqvist and Jonas Olsson will need to tighten up the centre of the defence—especially as the two full-backs are likely to surge forward.
Hamren's team have conceded seven goals in three games. Kim Kallstrom and Sebastian Larsson will play pivotal roles in breaking up Argentina's passing in midfield. Their delivery could also be key to Ibrahimovic making it onto the scoresheet.
Watford's on-loan Udinese defender Joel Ekstrand has pulled out of the squad and will be replaced by Rasmus Bengtsson from FC Twente (via The Watford Observer).
Projected starting XI: Isaksson; Lustig, Granqvist, J Olsson, M Olsson; Larsson, Elm, Kallstrom, Kacaniklic; Ranegie, Ibrahimovic.
Last five results: SWE 4-2 England, Germany 4-4 SWE, Faroe Islands 1-2 SWE, SWE 2-0 Kazakhstan, SWE 1-0 China.
Argentina Team News:
Alejandro Sabella isn't taking Sweden lightly. The Argentina coach has named a number of key players heading into this clash, aided by the majority playing in Europe.
Lionel Messi will enter the pitch against Zlatan Ibrahimovic (via Goal.com). Gonzalo Higuian, Sergio Aguero, and Ezequiel Lavezzi are also available, ensuring the visitors' attacking threat is crammed with firepower.
Ever Banega has been recalled to a squad that includes plenty of inexperience.
Wigan's Franco Di Santo has earned a second call-up after his debut in October 2012. He is joined by Rubin Kazan's Cristian Ansaldi, Santos' Walter Montillo and Celta Vigo's Augusto Fernandez, who share six caps between them. Espanyol goalkeeper Cristian Alvarez has been selected for the first time but isn't expected to get on the pitch (via Sky Sports).
Projected starting XI: Romero; Garay, Fernandez, Ansaldi, Zabaleta; Di Maria, Gago, Mascherano; Higuian, Messi, Aguero
Last five results: ARG 2-1 Brazil, Saudi Arabia 0-0 ARG, Chile 1-2 ARG, ARG 3-0 Uruguay, Brazil 2-1 ARG.
This match should serve as a useful workout for both teams. Can Sweden—who will be wearing Adidas kits for the first time—upset their famous opponents with another brilliant display (via Yahoo! Sports)?
Will Messi or Ibrahimovic make a significant impact?
Stick around to find out.
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