Sweden-Argentina Preview: Messi & Ibrahimovic set for Stockholm showdown
Two of the biggest names in global football will go head-to-head with the Albiceleste looking to build upon their recent impressive form ahead of next month's World Cup qualifiers
By Tom Webber
Lustig, Granqvist, J. Olsson, M. Olsson
Larsson, Ibrahimovic, Holmen
Zabaleta, F. Fernandez, Garay, Ansaldi
Gago, Mascherano, Di Maria
Aguero, Messi, Higuain
Argentina will hope that Lionel Messi can outshine Sweden's Zlatan Ibrahimovic and help them extend their current eight-game unbeaten run in official matches.
Alejandro Sabella's men have not tasted defeat since their opening World Cup qualifier against Venezuela back in 2011 and the coach will be doing all he can to ensure that does not happen again with Sergio Aguero, Angel Di Maria, Gonzalo Higuain and Messi all set to start.
Having garnered the favour of their trainer, Federico Fernandez and Ezequiel Garay will continue their partnership at the heart of defence while Rubin Kazan's Cristian Ansaldi may be rewarded with a place in the first XI.
Sweden boss Erik Hamren has a few options to use in front of Ibrahimovic so Johan Elmander will have to fight off competition to lead the line from Udinese's Mathias Ranegie.
Alexander Kacanikilic, who had a fantastic impact in Blagult's memorable four-goal comeback against Germany last year, is also in contention for a starting berth but Samuel Holmen should get the nod.
|DID YOU KNOW?|
- Sweden have not lost a game since the last time they played South American opposition, when Brazil beat Erik Hamren's men 3-0 in Stockholm in August.
- However, Blagult remain unbeaten against Wednesday's opponents with one win and a draw in their only two meetings.
- Zlatan Ibrahimovic (pictured, right) is just 10 goals away from equalling Sven Rydell's all-time goalscoring record for Sweden with 49 strikes.
- Lionel Messi failed to find the net in just two of his nine appearances for Argentina in 2012, scoring an impressive 13 goals in that time.
- An appearance for the Barcelona man will see him pass Juan Pablo Sorin to become the nation's ninth-most capped player.
- The Albiceleste are currently leading the way in South American World Cup qualifying, standing atop of the table after nine rounds.
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Top 3 Predictions
Sweden 1-3 Argentina
- 24.38 %
Sweden 1-2 Argentina
- 10.9 %
Sweden 0-3 Argentina
- 8.13 %
|International Friendlies (FR)||Feb 6, 2013||Sweden 2 - Argentina 3|
|Nov 19, 2013||Sweden 2 - Portugal 3||WCQ|
|Nov 15, 2013||Portugal 1 - Sweden 0||WCQ|
|Oct 15, 2013||Sweden 3 - Germany 5||WCQ|
|Oct 11, 2013||Sweden 2 - Austria 1||WCQ|
|Sep 10, 2013||Kazakhstan 0 - Sweden 1||WCQ|
|7||Ángel Di María||Midfielder|
|-||Osvaldo Nicolás Fabián Gaitán|
|-||Franco Di Santo|
Despite playing in a more withdrawn role for Sweden, Ibrahimovic continues to find the net for his nation. He will be watched closely by Javier Mascherano and Fernando Gago in the Argentina half but he certainly has the strength to deal with that duo. But there can be little doubt that if Blagult are to provide any sort of threat, the Paris Saint-Germain striker will need to be at the heart of it. He can go quiet on occasion, but going up against his former team-mate Lionel Messi should be enough to motivate him.
The diminutive Argentine has previously come in for a lot of criticism over his performances for the national team, but his record-breaking form last year looks to have put an end to those accusations. Having struck up a fantastic understanding with Sergio Aguero in the final third, the Barcelona man looks more lethal than ever for his country. It will be difficult for Sweden to contain the duo and even if they do, Angel Di Maria and Gonzalo Higuain can always cause some more trouble.
In Lionel Messi and Zlatan Ibrahimovic, both sides possess one of the greatest players in world football. However, it is the extra quality in the Argentines' supporting cast that should provide Alejandro Sabella's team with enough firepower to put them out of reach of Blagult. The South Americans have been impressive in their continental qualification for the World Cup and that momentum should serve them well in Stockholm.
Times In GMT
Live Final scheduled Suspended Cancelled Postponed