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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 12 December 2018

Al Ain striker Marcus Berg links up with Sweden squad, says 'we have two tough games before the World Cup'

Berg, 31, has enjoyed a prolific debut campaign in the UAE and is expected to lead the line for his national team on Saturday when they take on Chile in a friendly in Stockholm, before facing Romania three days later

Marcus Berg, centre, was part of the Sweden side that overcame Italy in a two-legged play-off to reach the World Cup in Russia. Soren Andersson / AFP
Marcus Berg, centre, was part of the Sweden side that overcame Italy in a two-legged play-off to reach the World Cup in Russia. Soren Andersson / AFP

Al Ain striker Marcus Berg is hoping to take his fine club form into the international break as Sweden increase preparations for the summer’s World Cup this weekend.

Berg, 31, is expected to lead the line for his national team on Saturday when they take on Chile in a friendly in Stockholm, before facing Romania three days later.

Sweden are in Group F at the World Cup, alongside defending champions Germany, Mexico, and South Korea, and Berg believes the match with Chile in particular can help with their preparations.

“We have two tough games," he said of Sweden's first fixtures since they beat Italy in a play-off in November to qualify for Russia.

"It’s good to play Chile, a South American team, which we haven’t played yet in a friendly or in the World Cup. It’s important because we play against Mexico in the last game in the group. So it will be a nice match for us, and nice to be reunited with everyone after the last game against Italy.

“We have a lot of good training ahead and two tough games before the World Cup.”

Al Ain forward Marcus Berg, right, has netted 20 goals for the UAE club in all competitions. Karim Sahib / AFP
Al Ain forward Marcus Berg, right, has netted 20 goals for the UAE club in all competitions. Karim Sahib / AFP

Berg arrives at the double-header on the back of helping Al Ain move to within two victories of a first Arabian Gulf League (AGL) title in three years. He scored in Saturday’s win at champions Al Jazira, taking his tally in his debut campaign in UAE football to 20 goals in all competitions.

Having signed last summer from Greek side Panathinaikos on a two-year deal, Berg has found the net 15 times in the AGL to fire Al Ain to a four-point lead with only three fixtures remaining.

A traditional No 9, Berg has led the line all season, with Omar Abdulrahman, Caio and more recently Hussein El Shahat charged with providing him the opportunities to score.

His record suggests he has settled well, although Berg feels he could still contribute more.

“It’s been OK,” he said. “I think I can do better. But also I could have some more balls in the box. Sometimes we keep the ball, which is our mentality and our style of football, to have a lot of possession. It’s been OK so far and hopefully we can take the championship. We will see, but we have to focus on three more tough games.”

Concluding his first season with the top-flight trophy would cap an enjoyable first nine months in the Garden City.

Marcus Berg, left, in action for Sweden against Belgium at Euro 2016. Ali Haider / EPA
Marcus Berg, left, in action for Sweden against Belgium at Euro 2016. Ali Haider / EPA

“It would mean a lot, of course,” Berg said. “It’s a big, big goal for us. Last year was a disappointment for everyone, so it will be fantastic to win the title this year. But it’s three more tough games to go.

“Of course, I’ve enjoyed my time here, but we need the last push. We have also the President’s Cup and the [Asian] Champions League – our next target is our next match against Al Hilal – but we’re aiming for the league title.

“I know it’s a big club and that’s way I came here. Like I said, last year was a big disappointment. So if we can manage to win the title and go to the next round in the Champions League everyone should be happy.”

Berg added he was always confident that his place in the Swedish side would not be in jeopardy despite moving from European football for the challenges of the AGL. He feels he has adjusted well to his new environment.

"I do my best every day,” said Berg, who has 53 caps. “It’s a different mentality here, different training that I’m used to. But I’m professional: if I need to do extra training I do extra training.

“So I don’t have any problem and I manage to work hard in the games, which is important for me and for the team. I don’t feel any big difference."

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