Mats Hummels needs to follow Andreas Granqvist’s marker and more Germany v Sweden key battles

Sport360's Stuart Appleby analyses three key areas of the pitch as Germany and Sweden prepare to clash in Sochi on Saturday

Stuart Appleby 2018/06/22

Germany‘s World Cup clash with Sweden is simply a win-at-all-costs fixture for Die Mannschaft.

The defending champions could be on the brink of elimination should they fail to gain all three points against the Swedes, following their shock Group F opening defeat against Mexico.

Joachim Low’s side have faced heavy criticism after going down 1-0 last Sunday, in what was a scoreline that actually flattered the Germans.

For Sweden, after a 1-0 victory over South Korea first-up, the Scandinavian outfit go into this one full of confidence.

Here, we look at the key battles.

The first line of defence

Mats Hummels v Andreas Granqvist

The Bayern Munich star, 29, is certainly more well known than his 33-year-old Sweden counterpart, who will ply his trade with Helsingborgs IF from next season. But, Granqvist, the talismanic captain of this side, rose to the occasion with a penalty-kick goal and all-round inspiring defensive display against Mexico.

As well as his goal, the centre-back made three key passes, had a team-high 88 touches and was a colossus, making three clearances, two blocked shots and two interceptions in helping Sweden keep their fifth clean sheet in six matches.

Hummels, certainly from a defensive perspective, could learn a thing or two from that showing. He really struggled to get to grips with Mexico’s advanced forward play, counter-attacks and looked extremely vulnerable to pace.

The battle in midfield

Toni Kroos v Sebastian Larsson

The Real Madrid superstar was one of the disappointments in the first round of fixtures, perhaps showing signs of a heavy second half to the season with Los Blancos.

Unusually, his touch and passing was a bit off as Germany found themselves being over-run in the engine room. Sami Khedira’s rather sluggish performance did nothing to help matters.

The inclusion of Ilkay Gundogan alongside him should help to stem the tide when they come up against a workmanlike Swedish middle, lacking quality but not short of resolve.

Larsson, a mainstay in the Premier League for several years with Birmingham City, Sunderland and Hull, along with Albin Ekdal, provided a solid base to protect the back four.

The Men in Attack

Timo Werner v Marcus Berg

The Die Mannschaft hitman flattered to deceive in a lone striking role in the defeat to Mexico, struggling to get to grips with a position in which Low likes his striker to drop deeper and influence the play as a false nine.

At just 22, the RB Leipzig man is still developing his craft at international level but will need to bring more oomph to the table having failed to produce much from his three shots on goal in Group F round one.

He will certainly need to link-up with Julian Draxler and Thomas Muller to greater effect if Germany are going to crack a firm Swedish defence, while Berg – the 31-year-old Al Ain striker who enjoyed a prolific past season in the Arabian Gulf League – is tasked with the responsibility of breaking German hearts.

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