No fewer than five high-profile games dominate the landscape on Matchday 4 of European Zone qualifying for the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™, with an array of table-topping teams ready to tackle close rivals. While Germany take on Sweden, France visit world and European champions Spain, Poland host England, Romania face the Netherlands and Iceland welcome Switzerland.
The big match
Germany-Sweden, Group C, Olympiastadion, Berlin
Having led his side to the final of UEFA EURO 2008 and the semi-finals of the 2010 FIFA World Cup and EURO 2012, Joachim Low needed a strong start down the road to Brazil 2014 to bat away suggestions that Germany are making a habit of falling short. Friday's spectacular 6-1 win against an under-strength Republic of Ireland side was an emphatic response. Germany were hugely impressive in Dublin as they allied calm possession with ferocious attacking power.
The Germans cannot afford complacency, though, with Sweden travelling to Berlin looking at ease in their 4-3-3 formation and boasting a striker with a talent for the sublime in Zlatan Ibrahimovic. The Scandinavian team must nonetheless temper their instinct to get forward if they are to avoid leaving too many gaps at the back.
Belgium and Croatia have both made excellent starts and stand shoulder to shoulder at the section summit, making them favourites to prevail against respective visitors Wales and Scotland. Following their heavy loss to the Red Devils last time out, Serbia can ill afford another slip as they visit FYR Macedonia, who offered sterling resistance in Friday's narrow loss to Croatia.
Italy seem to have mastered the art of winning ugly as coach Cesare Prandelli continues injecting fresh blood into his line-up. With Mario Balotelli sidelined with flu, Pablo Osvaldo has taken over the goalscoring duties and has enjoyed notable success, helped by an Andrea Pirlo still at the height of his powers. All the same, La Nazionale may well have to rediscover their EURO 2012 form if they are to down Denmark, who have kicked off with a pair of draws. Elsewhere, the section's two other unbeaten contenders will cross paths in Prague as Czech Republic host a surprisingly impressive Bulgaria side, having played one game less than both their visitors and Italy.
Held to a goalless draw in Kazakhstan on Friday, Austria hope to exact revenge on home soil, while Republic of Ireland realistically need a victory in the Faroe Islands to maintain their hopes of grabbing a potential runners-up spot.
Victor Piturca's Romania have quietly set about making a fine start to their campaign, recording three wins from three games – two of them away from home – and notching seven goals while conceding none. Their next mission brings them face to face with a Netherlands team eager to turn the page after their miserable EURO 2012 bid and yet to put a foot wrong in competitive outings under Louis van Gaal. As for Turkey, they already find themselves six points off the pace, so must avoid further disappointment in Hungary.
The only unbeaten team in the section, Switzerland will take a stranglehold on proceedings if they can claim victory away against second-placed Iceland. Meanwhile, Norway and Slovenia have both been underwhelming so far and need at least a point from their respective trips to Cyprus and Albania.
Fabio Capello's Russia look to have the quality required to continue their faultless start and stay clear of Portugal, who entertain Northern Ireland without injured pair Fabio Coentrao and Raul Meireles. As for Israel, they will be anxious to dispatch Luxembourg and keep the pacesetters within sight.
Tension reigns in Group G, with three teams unbeaten and level on seven points. Bosnia-Herzegovina have found the net 12 times in three matches and will look to continue their fine progress against Lithuania. Something will have to give when Slovakia tackle Greece – whose combined goals tally is three strikes shy of the Bosnians'.
The bad news for Poland is that Jakub Blaszczykowski will not get to add to his 57 caps due to an ankle injury. The 26-year-old will surely be missed as the Poles look to bounce back from last month's 2-2 draw in Montenegro. Visitors England are not at full strength themselves either, with Theo Walcott sidelined after suffering a chest injury against San Marino.
The statistics could hardly be more daunting for France as they cross swords with a Spain side unbeaten in 24 consecutive qualifiers, and whose goalkeeper Iker Casillas has not been beaten in 728 minutes at international level. "We have 23 first-team players," said Fernando Torres recently, underlining the riches available to coach Vicente del Bosque, who is not afraid to rotate his squad. Like Spain, Les Bleus have also won their first two qualifiers, but they will need to raise their game in Madrid and hope for Karim Benzema and Olivier Giroud to shine up front.
Player to watch
Karim Benzema may average 0.48 goals a game for club side Real Madrid, but it is a different story when he slips on a France shirt, his ratio for Les Bleus standing at a less convincing 0.27 strikes per match. With zero goals and just two assists to his name at EURO 2012, Benzema would surely love to prove his international pedigree in Tuesday's showdown, particularly as the match will be held at the Estadio Vicente Calderon, home of Real's neighbours and great rivals Atletico.The stat
73 – The number of players used by Cesare Prandelli since he took the Italy reins after the 2010 FIFA World Cup, his record at the helm reading 15 wins, eight draws and seven losses.
What they said
"It would make no sense to take three points in Serbia and then not win at home against Scotland," Marc Wilmots, Belgium coach.
Have your say
Can France prevail in Spain?