Belfast Telegraph

Freddie dreaming of Swede revenge

By Mark McIntosh

Freddie Ljungberg insists he is surprised by Northern Ireland's meteoric rise to success ? but now he's ready to bring it crashing to a halt.

The West Ham United midfielder is desperate to get to grips with Nigel Worthington's side to settle a few old scores after the Swedes suffered their only defeat of the Euro 2008 campaign in Belfast in March.

Skipper Ljungberg is still an injury doubt for Swedish boss Lars Lagerback and hasn't trained with his team mates since Saturday's 3-0 win in Liechtenstein.

"If the match had have been tonight (Tuesday) there's no way Freddie would have made it," Lagerback said.

" But the doctor will take a look at him again tomorrow (Wednesday) and we will give him every chance of playing."

The ex-Arsenal ace is suffering from sore ribs and bleeding in his calf but he will be given every opportunity to play in the match that could signal Sweden's qualification for the European Championships in Austria and Switzerland next summer.

A win for the Scandinavian nation would do just that and hammer the final nail in the coffin for Northern Ireland aspirations of making it to their first major championships in over 20 years.

"We have a great opportunity to qualify for the European Championships and a win against Northern Ireland will take us there," said Ljungberg.

" That is all we want to do but we know it will not be easy.

" Northern Ireland beat us in Belfast and that is something that we still have on our minds.

"But this game is against another country doing very well.

"I think Northern Ireland have surprised everyone in the group so far.

"They have played really well, especially against the so-called bigger teams and they deserve to be where they are in this group.

"Northern Ireland deserve a lot of credit for what they have done so far but we know a win for us would be a big blow to this as well as securing a place at the finals for us.

"We will go out to win and hopefully that is exactly what we will do."

Ljungberg will come face-to-face with Hammers club-mate George McCartney tonight but he insists he has wished the Northern Ireland man well.

He added: "I haven't spoken to George since I left last week but I did wish him luck personally for the game but, of course, I hope he is on the losing side.

"It is always a special feeling when you play against one of your team-mates but we will both be trying to win the game for our countries and then we can be friends again afterwards."

Meanwhile Aston Villa defender Olof Mellberg is hoping to make it a miserable night for his club boss and former Northern Ireland skipper, Martin O'Neill.

"I definitely hope for a better night than when Northern Ireland beat us," he said.

"We're looking forward to it because qualification is there for us and it would be nice to be able to relax in the last two games.

"But we know this will be a very tough game for us.

"The good thing for us is that we are always strong at home and we're all looking forward to it.

"Obviously my club manager Martin O'Neill played for Northern Ireland and I know he watched the first game but I hope he will not be pleased by the time I get back to Villa."

Belfast Telegraph


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