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Sports

Germany vs. Ibrahimovic (and 10 other Swedes)

Germany face their toughest 2014 World Cup qualifying opponent in Berlin on Tuesday. They're technically playing all eleven of Sweden's national team players - but one Swede in particular will receive special attention.

You wouldn't be wrong, based on comments ahead of Tuesday's 2014 World Cup qualifying match in Berlin between Germany and Sweden, to assume that Germany will actually only have one true opponent: Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

He is without a doubt the superstar of the Swedish team, and the Swedes are pinning all their hopes of a good result against Germany on him and his brilliance.

But Germany coach Joachim Löw - with all due respect to 'Ibracadabra' - doesn't want to reduce Tuesday's game in Berlin's Olympic Stadium to a mere one-to-one competition with the most expensive player in the world.

Löw said ahead of the match that Ibrahimovic is a key player who is unpredictable. Sweden focuses a lot of their offense on him as well.

"But Sweden functions well as a team," Löw said. "They meet the challenge of bigger nations, and have text-book organization. This team is difficult to play and difficult to beat."

Now, of all times, Löw will most likely have to do without Sami Khedira. On the eve of Germany's last home match of the year, the Real Madrid midfielder is fighting a muscle strain in his thigh. He was not a part of Monday evening's final practice before the game. Toni Kroos will likely take his place alongside Bastian Schweinsteiger, who will look to support a German defense that has looked nothing but patchy in the last few months.

Marco Reus knows the importance of a solid defense, especially against Ibrahimovic, who Reus calls "an absolute world-class player."

"You look forward to players like that, because you want to prove yourself," added defender Holger Badstuber. "But we can't solely concentrate on Ibrahimovic, we have to keep a tight defense in general."

Löw said it is important to "get to him early, and not give him much space."

Germany Captain Philipp Lahm will be back on the pitch after missing the last game against Ireland because of a one-game suspension due to yellow cards. He'll come on for Jerome Boateng.

Per Mertesacker will join up with Badstuber once again at center back. Arsenal's Mertesacker is also looking forward to the matchup with Ibrahimovic.

"[There are some players] who are more fun to play against than others," he said. "That's what it's like against Ibrahimovic. He has incredible individual strengths. It will be a special challenge for the whole defense."

Mertesacker, too, is cautious against focusing too much on the striker from Paris St. Germain.

"Sweden has a good team all around," he said. "If we underestimate them, it will be dangerous. But that's a mistake we won't make."

Probable starting formations:

Germany: Neuer – Lahm, Mertesacker, Badstuber, Schmelzer – Kroos, Schweinsteiger – Müller, Özil, Reus – Klose

Sweden: Isaksson – Lustig, Granqvist, Jonas Olsson, Martin Olsson – Svensson, Källström – Larsson, Wilhelmsson, Ibrahimovic – Elmander

Official: Proenca (Portugal)

For live commentary on Germany vs. Sweden, be sure to follow @dw_sports on Twitter and tune in at 1830 UTC on Tuesday, October 16.

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