World Cup Qualifying Preview: Republic of Ireland - Sweden

Ryan Kelly
World Cup Qualifying Preview: Republic of Ireland - Sweden

With both teams locked level on points in Group C, the clash between the Republic of Ireland and Sweden represents a must-win encounter for both sides.

While Germany leads the group, Austria, Sweden and Ireland are vying for the coveted playoff spot. Each team is level on 11 points, with Austria occupying second place due to its superior goal difference.

Ireland has history on its side, having not lost at home to Sweden since 1949, when it was beaten 3-1 in a 1950 World Cup qualifier at Dalymount Park. The last meeting between the sides in Dublin resulted in a 3-0 victory for the Irish, with goals from Damien Duff, Robbie Keane and Liam Miller securing the win.

Sweden's form away from home during this campaign has been inconsistent. Despite showing tremendous resilience to stage a comeback in the dramatic 4-4 draw against Germany in Berlin, the Swedes were beaten 2-1 by Austria in Vienna in June.

However, Erik Hamren's side will be comforted by the fact that Ireland's home form of late has also been questionable, with the Boys in Green suffering their worst ever home defeat in Oct. 2012 - a 6-1 loss against group leaders Germany.

Ireland boss Giovanni Trapattoni has been handed an injury boost as Marc Wilson and first-choice goalkeeper David Forde have both regained fitness ahead of the clash with Sweden, while captain and talisman Robbie Keane also returns to the squad.

QPR center back Richard Dunne is expected to make his first competitive international appearance since featuring against Italy at Euro 2012. John O'Shea is expected to partner the defender in the heart of defense as Trapattoni seeks to shackle Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

In the absence of Aiden McGeady, Norwich City winger Anthony Pilkington could be in line to make his first senior appearance for the Boys in Green after shaking off a knee injury, while James McCarthy is likely to partner Glenn Whelan in midfield.

Rasmus Elm is the most notable absentee for Erik Hamren's side ahead of this crucial Group C clash, while Anders Granqvist will miss the game through suspension.

Johan Elmander is expected to partner Zlatan Ibrahimovic in attack, while Spartak Moscow midfielder Kim Kallstrom returns to the squad after missing August's 4-2 friendly victory over Norway.