Sweden aim to reduce Dutch lead
© AFP

Sweden coach Erik Hamren would rather have Zlatan Ibrahimovic available for the trip to Moldova but insists his team can cope in the absence of their injured captain.

AC Milan striker Ibrahimovic has a foot injury, one which has affected him for several weeks but could clear up in time for Tuesday's home clash with Finland. Sweden's UEFA EURO 2012 qualifying campaign appears to be a race for second place in Group E, after rivals Netherlands began with six straight wins.

And statistics bear out Ibrahimovic's importance to the national team, with the team's points and goals-per-game averages significantly higher when he pulls on the shirt. But beating Moldova should be within their capabilities, Ibrahimovic or no Ibrahimovic, as Hamren says.

We have played and won matches without Zlatan before. I am optimistic that we can manage without him.
Erik Hamren, Sweden coach

The former Rosenborg coach said: "We have played and won matches without Zlatan before. I am optimistic that we can manage without him. I think we can give a really, really good performance against Moldova, although of course I would have wanted him to be fit. Zlatan Ibrahimovic improves any team in my view."

Sweden were 2-1 winners against Moldova in March, when goals from Mikael Lustig and Sebastian Larsson saw off the visitors in Solna. Ibrahimovic missed an abundance of chances, including a penalty, in that match, so his absence may not be too sorely felt.

In his absence, Ola Toivonen and Johan Elmander, the latter fresh from agreeing a move from Bolton Wanderers to Galatasaray, are set to be paired in attack. Ibrahimovic will not even make the trip as a spectator, with Sweden's medical staff believing he would be better served staying at home and making sure his foot is right for the tussle against Finland.

Netherlands and Hungary sit out tomorrow's round of matches so Sweden, with three wins from four matches so far, can cut the Dutch lead to six points with an away success, and would have a game in hand. The Swedes would then be able to reduce the gap to three by beating Finland, given Netherlands do not play another qualifier until September.

Finland take on San Marino
Tomorrow evening sees Finland tackle San Marino at Serravalle's Stadio Olimpico. The match could be an opportunity for Mikael Forssell to impress, as he looks for a new club.

Former Birmingham City and Chelsea striker Forssell, 30, has reached the end of his contract with German side Hannover. He has performed well in qualifying so far, hitting five goals in four games for the Finns, including a hat-trick against San Marino last November.