De Rossi relieved not to face Zlatan

Daniele De Rossi says facing a Zlatan-less Sweden is a plus for Italy ahead of their World Cup play-off tie on Friday.

Having ended second in Group G behind Spain after the first round of qualifiers, De Rossi's Italy must now overcome Sweden over two legs if they are to attend the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

With Zlatan Ibrahimovic officially retired from international duty after Euro 2016, De Rossi admits that even at 36, the Manchester United remains a threat to any team.

De Rossi said: "I'd never want Ibra against me, not even at 40 years and with a broken leg. The fact that there's no Ibrahimovic is an advantage for anyone who has to face them.

"It's not that the rest of them are unknown to us though, we know them because some of them play in Italy and others play in important European leagues."

He added: "We're strong, maybe better than Sweden, but there's a little bit of fear that 'right, we have to deliver'.

"If the World Cup is important for me, when I've already played three, let's think how important it is for those who have never been there.

"What's at stake is so important that the concept of 'blood and sweat' is the right one, we'll give everything but we'll also need composure, organisation, technique and we have to run."

Italy head to Sweden for the first leg on Friday, while the return leg is in Milan on Monday. If they lose over the two legs to Sweden, it will be the first time in 50 years Italy has missed out on a World Cup.

Meanwhile, Ibrahimovic, who scored 62 goals in 116 games for Sweden, says there is less pressure on Sweden to perform.

He told Sky Sport Italia: "Sweden are playing without pressure, because since I left, nobody expects much of them now, from the media to the fans. When I play, the level is raised, so it is lowered in my absence.

"Having said that, this squad remains a good collective, just with less responsibility on their shoulders. The players are not very experienced, but the project is ambitious."

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