Portugal vs. Sweden: Cristiano Ronaldo, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Top Stars to Watch

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Portugal vs. Sweden: Cristiano Ronaldo, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Top Stars to Watch
Jamie McDonald/Getty Images

This is it for Portugal and Sweden. 

After 10 qualifying matches, both countries face a home-and-away tie against each other, with a coveted spot at next summer’s World Cup in Brazil the prize at stake.  

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Matches don’t come much bigger in world football, and with two of the world’s greatest match winners on either side, fireworks are all but guaranteed. 

The destination for the first leg is the Estadio da Luz in Lisbon, where Sweden will be hoping to snatch victory ahead of the return leg at the Friends Arena in Solna.

Here’s a look at the form of the two main men, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Cristiano Ronaldo—who have 15 goals between them in the Champions League this season—as well as two other stars to keep an eye on over the crucial two legs. 

 

Cristiano Ronaldo

The Portugal camp were forced to dispel concerns over Ronaldo’s fitness ahead of the tie with Sweden, per John Edwards in the Daily Mail. 

The Real Madrid attacker sat out of training on Tuesday, but the knock doesn’t appear serious. 

Ronaldo has been in unstoppable form for Los Blancos this term, scoring two hat-tricks in Madrid's last two home games at the Bernabeu.

The former Manchester United man is the top goalscorer in the Champions League, with eight goals in four games. In total he has bagged 27 goals in 20 appearances this campaign, while chipping in with seven assists. 

The concern for Portugal boss Paulo Bento ahead of the play-off will be getting the best out of Ronaldo. The former Ballon d’Or winner scored just four goals throughout qualifying, with three of those coming in the one game against Northern Ireland. Here's a look at how Bento can maximise his star man's talents. 

If Ronaldo brings his A game then there is very little Sweden can do to stop him.

 

Zlatan Ibrahimovic 

At 32 years of age, the 2014 World Cup in Brazil will likely be Ibrahimovic’s last chance to strut his stuff in a yellow jersey on the world stage.

The Paris Saint-Germain front man has gotten better and better with age, and it could be argued that he is currently producing the best football of his career. 

Similarly to Ronaldo, the Swede signed off for the international break with a hat-trick of his own. He sent three past Nice at the weekend, putting PSG four points clear at the top of Ligue 1. 

The Malmo-born star has scored 15 goals and created three more in his 16 appearances for the French club this term. He is unpredictable in a good way, as can be seen in this clip. 

Ibrahimovic also scored six in nine games for Sweden as they finished second in Group C, eight points behind pool winners Germany. 

If Sweden are to advance then this man will need to produce the goods. 

 

Joao Moutinho

Harold Cunningham/Getty Images

Moutinho was one of Monaco’s big-money signings over the summer and he has impressed so far for the Ligue 1 side. 

The 27-year-old played in every minute of Portugal’s qualifying campaign, assisting seven goals in his 10 appearances—per UEFA.

He is the puppet master in the centre of the park for Portugal, and Sweden will need to be wary of the time they give him on the ball.

When Moutinho has space he can work his magic, and he will be looking to thread balls through to Ronaldo, Nani and Helder Postiga. If Sweden want to cut off the service to the wide men then they will need to get at Moutinho.

Otherwise he will be picking passes all night. 

 

Sebastian Larsson 

Jamie McDonald/Getty Images

Larsson will be well known to fans of the Premier League, but he isn’t exactly a household name in world football. 

Having said that, the Swede is a talented individual, who can land the ball on sixpence from any distance.

Like Moutinho, Larsson started every game throughout qualifying and he will act as Ibrahimovic’s supply chain over the next two games. 

The 28-year-old won’t trouble Fabio Coentrao, the Portuguese left-back, with pace and dribbling. But what he will do is put the ball in dangerous areas for his teammates to do the damage. 

His ability with a dead ball—on both direct and indirect free kicks—is exceptional, so Portugal will need to be wary of excessive fouling around the area. Take note, Pepe. 

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