Switzerland get the first ever Nations League Finals underway on Wednesday night, when they face hosts Portugal in Porto for a place in the final.
The Swiss secured their berth last November, after their dramatic win over Belgium. They enter the final four with the strongest group stage record, as they prepare to play in the first ever Nations League semi-final.
They meet the hosts Portugal, who are ranked just one place ahead of the Swiss in seventh. Fernando Santos’ side are the only finalists to reach this stage unbeaten, as they won Group A3 with two wins and two draws.
Here’s everything you need to know about Switzerland’s Nations League Finals debut.
|When is it?||Wednesday 5 June 2019|
|What time is kick-off?||20:45 local time (19:45 UK)|
|Where is it?||Estádio do Dragão, Porto|
|Where can I watch it?||Sky Sports Main Event (UK), SRF Zwei (SUI)|
The Swiss squad was named on Monday, with captain Stephan Lichtsteiner and Mario Gavranović missing out. Timm Klose and Christian Fassnacht also lose their places, despite winning silverware with Norwich City and BSC Young Boys respectively.
Breel Embolo had to pull out of the squad after ‘feeling pain in his left foot’, meaning he will have missed six of Switzerland’s last eight games through injury. FC Basel’s Noah Okafor replaces him, as the 19-year-old starlet earns his first senior callup.
Portugal’s squad was named four days earlier, with star man Cristiano Ronaldo included. Sevilla forward André Silva was declared unfit for the games, while Danilo Pereira is suspended. João Félix, Diogo Jota and José Sá all earn their first callups, as the hosts look to win it on home soil.
Switzerland return to action after their disappointing EURO 2020 qualifier, as Denmark came back to draw 3-3 in March. After being 3-0 up until the 83rd minute, the Swiss conceded three goals in nine minutes to throw away the win.
Nevertheless, their overall form remains strong. The Schweizer Nati are unbeaten in their last four competitive fixtures, and have yet to lose in 2019 after a strong start to qualifying where they sit second in Group D.
Portugal drew their opening European qualifiers, as both Ukraine and Serbia held them in Lisbon. The Seleção sit third in Group B behind Ukraine and Luxembourg, who are ranked 20 and 79 places below them respectively.
The Portuguese have only lost once since the start of 2018, and are also unbeaten in their last four games. However the Seleção have drawn four consecutive games, with eight of their last 14 fixtures ending all square.
Portugal and Switzerland have met 22 times before, and it is the Swiss who have the superior record. The Schweizer Nati have ten wins over the Portuguese, who in comparison have won seven times.
They last met in the 2018 World Cup qualifiers, with Switzerland winning 2-0 on the opening matchday with goals from Breel Embolo and Admir Mehmedi. However, on the final matchday in October 2017, Portugal won 2-0 through an own goal from Johan Djourou and André Silva’s strike.
The win in Lisbon saw Portugal earn direct qualification ahead of Switzerland, despite the Swiss having been top of the table the entire campaign. Although Switzerland eventually qualified through the play-offs, they will be eager to earn revenge.
MY NATI LINEUP
It seems that it has become more difficult to chose Petković’s formation than his 11 starters. The Switzerland manager has opted for three different formations in the last three games, but I believe he will play a 4-3-3 against a strong Portuguese side.
With Lichtsteiner left out of the squad, Kevin Mbabu should deservedly start at right-back. Remo Freuler is likely to drop back into a midfield three, alongside regulars Granit Xhaka and Denis Zakaria.
Up front, Xherdan Shaqiri and Haris Seferović will return from injury into the starting eleven, with the latter in outstanding form for Benfica. Steven Zuber should make up the Nati’s attack, as he looks to get his second goal of 2019.
This is set to be Switzerland’s biggest and most testing fixture of 2019, though that could change with the result of the game. Portugal are firm favourites to win the tournament, with Ronaldo among the ranks and their home advantage certain to play a part.
However, Portugal’s recent form suggests that they may not be as strong as they look. Switzerland are just as good as them, reaching the same stage in the World Cup as well as the Nations League. The Schweizer Nati will be the underdogs, but that could play a part.
I truly believe Switzerland can win this game. Although I am biased I really do believe in the Nati, knowing how well we’ve performed against the best of the best. We drew with Brazil, we beat Belgium- now is it time to beat Portugal? I think so.
My Prediction: Portugal 1-2 Switzerland
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