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Preview: Sweden vs. Macedonia

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The Macedonian players train in Sweden; photo: ffm.com.mkThe Macedonian players train in Sweden; photo: ffm.com.mkThe Macedonian squad faces another tough test in a friendly against Sweden and their star striker Zlatan Ibrahimović, made even more difficult by the absences of several key players.

The new leadership of the Football Federation of Macedonia (FFM) continues to schedule tougher friendlies to test the players against well known opposition.  Instead of regularly facing the likes of Azerbaijan and Albania, which was the norm in the past, Macedonia's recent friendlies have been against stronger opposition in Denmark, Poland, Slovenia and now Sweden and Norway over the next eight days.  The first test comes later today against Sweden at the Swedbank Stadion in Malmö.

Manager Chedomir Janevski initially called up 28 players for the friendlies against Sweden and Norway, but that number has been dwindled for a multitude of reasons.  Goalkeeper Martin Bogatinov withdrew with an injury, David Babunski had club obligations with the youth team of Barcelona, Marko Pavlovski had a change of heart and decided he wasn't ready to represent Macedonia at this time, while Jasmin Mecinovic and Kire Ristevski were also withdrawn as Janevski wanted to give preference to the other defenders on the squad who were used more extensively in the ongoing 2014 World Cup qualifiers.  So far, just keeper Darko Tofiloski has been added as a replacement for those withdrawn players to the national team.

An unexpected injury struck the Macedonian side while they were training in Sweden.  Right-back Daniel Georgievski has been ruled out after complaining of an injury following a grueling season with his club team Steaua București in Romania.  Georgievski joins two other stalwarts in attacker Goran Pandev and midfielder Muhamed Demiri who will miss the upcoming friendlies.

Regardless of the absences, the current Macedonian players are motivated to play well against Sweden which is led by well known striker Zlatan Ibrahimović.  A number of the Macedonian players are looking to make transfers this summer, so this will be a good opportunity to showcase their talents in front of scouts who will be following the match.

Janevski is expected to stick with his favored 4-2-3-1 formation.  The biggest question marks in the starting lineup will be the two wingbacks, the second defensive midfielder position besides Nikola Gligorov and potentially the left winger spot since the usual starter Ivan Trichkovski has been in bad form as of late.

Possible Macedonian starting lineup:

                     Pachovski
Todorovski-Grncharov-Noveski-Ristovski
                Gligorov-Hasani
       Ibraimi-Tasevski-Trichkovski
                       Jahovic

Meanwhile, the Swedish manager Erik Hamrén has already announced the starting 11 that will take the field against Macedonia.  It consists of the following players: Isaksson; Lustig, Olsson, Granqvist, Wendt; Larsson, Källström, Ekdal, Kačaniklić; Ibrahimović, Elmander.

To date, Macedonia and Sweden have faced off twice, both coming back in the 2002 World Cup qualifications.  Sweden won both matches, winning 1:0 at home and then collecting a 1:2 victory on the road.  This will be the first friendly between the two teams.  The match will kick-off at 19:00 CET with the main referee being Pavel Královec from the Czech Republic.

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