Sweden vs. Portugal: Prediction, Preview and Key Battles

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Sweden vs. Portugal: Prediction, Preview and Key Battles
Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

Sweden vs. Portugal has gained top billing among the final World Cup play-offs due to the head-to-head battle between Cristiano Ronaldo and Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

The fact one of these superstars won't appear at next summer's show-piece event will only detract from the tournament, and both will be desperate to make the trip.

Paulo Bento's side edged ahead in the first leg, thanks to a goal from Ronaldo, meaning Portugal head to the second tie in Sweden holding a slender advantage.

Here's a look ahead to that return fixture, along with a few key battles.

Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

What: World Cup play-off, second leg

Who: Sweden vs. Portugal

Where: Friends Arena, Solna

When: Tuesday, November 19

Start: 20:45 (local), 19:45 (GMT)

 

Pepe vs. Zlatan Ibrahimovic

There's little doubt Ibrahimovic carries most of his nation's hopes, making the tussle between him and Pepe especially crucial.

Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

The PSG man was effectively stifled by Pepe during the first leg, limited to just one shot and 30 passes, according to WhoScored. The Real Madrid defender continually cleared the danger and remained close to his opposite man whenever Sweden pressed forward.

Ibrahimovic will be a different animal on home soil, roared on by his national support, but if Pepe can repeat his first-leg showing, Sweden will struggle to score.

 

Cristiano Ronaldo vs. Mikael Lustig

Silencing Ronaldo is not a one-man job and Mikael Lustig required either Sebastian Larsson or a fellow defender to be in close proximity during most of the first leg.

That still didn't suppress the Real Madrid man who, according to WhoScored, unleashed seven shots at goal—more than the entire Swedish side.

He scored the goal that currently separates the teams and will once again be Portugal's danger man in the second leg.

 

Joao Moutinho vs. Kim Kallstrom

Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

For Sweden to qualify they need to see far more of the ball. WhoScored tallied their possession at just 32 percent in the first leg, which won't provide them enough chances to win this match.

To do that, they must limit the influence of Joao Moutinho, who pulled Portugal's strings on Friday, touching the ball 102 timestwice as many as any Swedish outfield player, according to WhoScored.

Kim Kallstrom must get closer to him and disrupt the Monaco man, providing a platform to more possession for the home side.

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Prediction

Portugal have been horrifically unreliable for the past few years but have to deliver when it matters most.

They have the superior team, a useful lead, and must target an early away goal to seal the tie and silence the crowd. 

Expect Ibrahimovic to have a say somewhere along the line, but it will be Ronaldo making his way to Brazil.

Sweden 1-1 Portugal (Portugal qualify 2-1 on aggregate)

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