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Spain and Sweden battle for top spot in group F

Madrid - Spain and Sweden will be battling for top spot in Group F of the Euro 2008 qualifiers on Saturday.



The Spaniards need to beat Sweden in order to go top of the group for the first time - and thus set up a happy ending to a rocky qualifying campaign.

 Sweden are currently top with 23 points from ten games, Spain are second on 22.

 A draw in Madrid's Estadio Santaiago Bernabeu would probably put both teams onto the road to Austria and Switzerland, since Denmark and Northern Ireland only have 17 points apiece and therefore need a minor miracle to qualify.

 Veteran Spain manager Luis Aragones and several of his players have made it clear they will be looking for a win on Saturday, not a draw.

 "It's important that we finish the campaign properly," striker David Villa told Marca newspaper, after being part of the presentation of the new Spanish red and gold shirt.

 Villa also said that Spain should take "healthy revenge" on Sweden for the 2-0 defeat suffered in Stockholm 13 months ago.

 The Valencia striker will be leading the Spanish attack after missing October's 3-1 win away to Denmark with a sprained ankle.

 Villa will almost certainly get the nod ahead of little Raul Tamudo of Espanyol, one of the heroes against Denmark, who will start on the bench.

 Fernando Torres has not been called up, even though the Liverpool striker proved that he is back to fitness by scoring last Saturday against Fulham.

 In place of Torres, Aragones has called up Mallorca striker Daniel Guiza for the first time. He has covered up for the absence of Xabi Alonso - another Liverpool injury victim - by bringing back veteran Villarreal anchorman Marcos Senna, who had not been called up since the 2006 World Cup finals.

 Senna will be on the bench, with David Albelda, Xavi Hernandez, Andres Iniesta and Cesc Fabregas in midfield, and with either David Silva or Joaquin Sanchez on the wing, providing the ammunition for lone striker Villa.

 The Spanish defence will consist of Sergio Ramos, Carles Puyol, Carlos Marchena and Joan Capdevila, with Iker Casillas in goal.

 Practically all tickets for Saturday's clash have already been sold. On Wednesday, Real Madrid were informed by UEFA that the remodelled Bernabeu had been given the coveted category of "Elite Stadium."

   Sweden have been training in Madrid since Monday, with Freddie Ljungberg gradually recuperating his fitness.

 Leading the Swedish attack will be Zlatan Ibrahimovic, now that he has mended his fences with manager Lars Lagreback and returned to the squad.

 "We really want to finish up on top of the group," Ibrahimovic told radio station Cadena SER.By Duncan Shaw, dpa


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