Lahm notes Sweden strengths

14 October 2012 20:54

Germany are full of confidence having dished out a 6-1 hammering to Ireland but captain Philipp Lahm remains wary of Sweden.

The Group C leaders have three wins from as many games in World Cup qualifying and face a similarly unblemished side in their World Cup qualifier on Tuesday, with Sweden winning both of their clashes against Kazakhstan and Faroe Islands.

While Ireland posed little threat going forward and leaked heavily in defence, Lahm, who is set to return from suspension, said Joachim Loew’s side needed to be conscious of Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s lethal threat in attack.

“With (Zlatan) Ibrahimovic they have a top-level attacker. We’ll have to defend well very against him,” Lahm told reporters.

“Sweden is a well-organised team with a good structure in the defence.”

Goalkeeper Manuel Neuer was frustrated to concede against Ireland but expected plenty more action in front of goal against Sweden.

“I think I’ll get more work against Sweden than against Ireland,” Neuer said.

“In Dublin the defenders did a good job.

“Of course I’m angry about goals against us. And I was also against Ireland.

“But we have to go on like that what we’ve shown. We’ll try to play well in attack again and we want to score a lot of goals to win the game. But we’ll get more to do in the defence.”

Dortmund winger Marco Reus, meanwhile, was none the wiser about the makeup of Sweden’s squad, admitting he did not know if veteran defender Olof Mellberg, who retired after Euro 2012, was still playing.

“I don’t know if he is still playing, Olof Mellberg. I have to be honest. I don’t know if he’s still playing. I haven’t been paying much attention to them (Sweden).”

Allegri confident of catching Juventus

14 October 2012 20:29

AC Milan coach Massimiliano Allegri has insisted his side are more than capable of catching Serie A pacesetters Juventus.

Despite falling 12 points behind champions Juve, Allegri said the return of South American stars Robinho and Alexandre Pato will give his side the strength to fight back in the Scudetto race.

“(We know) that things won’t change overnight, nor will a single match change our season, but it is important to rise again,” he told the official club website.

“The first thing we have to do to improve is to find continuity in our results.

“We have to improve defensively, and we also have to get better in front of goal. At the moment, we are creating a lot of chances but we are not converting enough.”

The Italian boss is confident Robinho and Pato will be the vital cogs that can help improve Milan’s record.

“He (Robinho) will be very important for us this season, and from Pato we’re expecting goals.

“What we’re paying for in the league is the wasted chances we’ve had, and that’s why I’m not worried.”

Allegri dismissed any doubt over his position as Milan coach, and is thankful for the faith being shown in him by the club’s president Silvio Berlusconi.

“He (Berlusconi) understands where we are at the moment, and he has encouraged us to stay calm,” Allegri said.

“I have always felt the trust, but now we need to start getting results.”

Cowie called up for injured Brown

14 October 2012 18:56

Scotland coach Craig Levein has called up Cardiff City midfielder Don Cowie to replace the injured Scott Brown to face Belgium on Tuesday.

Brown came off at half-time during Scotland’s 2-1 defeat to Wales in World Cup qualifying on Friday, with the Celtic midfielder suffering a recurrence of the hip injury that has kept him out of several club games this season.

Cowie, 29, has been called up in his place and will hope to add to the 10 caps he has won so far with the national team.

Scotland still have a number of injury concerns, with James Forrest unlikely to feature due to a groin problem, while Hearts defender Andy Webster is still suffering with a back injury.

Steven Naismith will also miss the game in Brussels as he serves a two-match ban for elbowing Serbia player Srdan Mijailovic in a previous qualifier.

Levein’s side are still yet to record a win in their World Cup 2014 qualifying campaign, enduring two draws before the disappointing defeat to Wales.

Their next opponents, Belgium, lead the group on goal difference with their nearest rivals Croatia sat in second.

Belgium won 3-0 on Friday against Serbia, but they will be without the injured pair of Marouane Fellaini and Romelu Lukaku against the Tartan Army.

Jagielka alert to Polish threat

14 October 2012 18:55

England defender Phil Jagielka says his side are anticipating a rigorous test against Poland in Warsaw on Tuesday.

The Everton centre-back was rarely troubled on Friday as England collected their first home win of the World Cup 2014 qualifying campaign with a 5-0 rout of San Marino.

Jagielka was pleased to record a morale-boosting victory but acknowledged that the Euro 2012 co-hosts would present a far sterner proposition away from Wembley.

“Three points in the bag, five goals scored and none conceded, as far as we’re concerned it was a good professional job done,” Jagielka told the Football Association’s official website.

“We knew what kind of a test we were in for and we got through it okay – is probably about the right word – and we knew that Tuesday is probably going to be a lot more of a test.

“It was all about a clean sheet from the defensive point of view and for the front men to create and score goals and get some confidence heading into Tuesday.

“We’re expecting a much more difficult game on Tuesday night.”

England will have to do without Chelsea duo Frank Lampard and Ryan Bertrand at the National Stadium, while Theo Walcott will also sit out the match after suffering a bruised lung in a challenge with San Marino goalkeeper Aldo Simoncini.

But Jagielka insists Roy Hodgson’s side have more than enough strength in depth to deal with the latest injury setbacks.

“Frank’s done well for England, especially recently, so we will be missing him,” Jagielka said.

“But if you look at the other night’s game, Michael (Carrick) and Tom (Cleverley) did fantastically well and we’ve also got our captain (Steven Gerrard) to come back, so cover for Frank not being here is looking really good at the moment.”

While conceding Lampard’s absence was a setback, midfielder Cleverley is confident his side have the cover overcome a difficult test against the Poles.

“Frank is a great player and can offer a lot to any team in the world,” Cleverley said.

“He’s a box to box player and scores from midfield so he’s a big part to our team. It’s a loss for us but that’s why you have squads. We have a lot of good midfielders and hopefully he won’t be missed.

“They’ve (Poland) got a lot of good players, I watched some of them in the Euros and Dortmund had a couple in their Champions League game with City.

“But we’ve prepared well, we’ve worked hard and we’ll watch them over the next few days and find out what they can throw at us on Tuesday.”

Lahm fears strong Sweden

14 October 2012 18:46

Germany captain Philipp Lahm has urged his team-mates not to underestimate Sweden in their World Cup qualifier on Tuesday.

Talking at the pre-match press conference, Lahm said: “Sweden are dangerous opponents, maybe the strongest team (that we will face in the group).

“They are well organised in defence, and in (Zlatan) Ibrahimovic they have a complete striker who can be very dangerous.”

Lahm also welcomed Bastian Schweinsteiger’s criticism of the team spirit, encouraging his team-mates to listen to the German midfielder’s comments.

“I see Bastian’s comments as a positive, we should all listen to what he has to say and question ourselves.”

“I don’t know if the pressure building is to blame, but we all know that no one is guaranteed to win titles.

“It doesn’t matter how many times we reach semi-finals, or the final, in every tournament there will be four or five teams that are going to be difficult to beat.”