Switzerland return to action with a crucial EURO 2020 qualifier on Thursday night, as they face the Republic of Ireland in Dublin.
The Schweizer Nati are back to European qualifiers following June’s Nations League Finals, where they finished fourth. Switzerland were beaten 3-1 by hosts Portugal in the semi-final, before being edged out on penalties in the third place play-off by England.
On the other hand, the Republic of Ireland are in poll position at the top of Group D. The Irish lead the way with 10 points after 4 games, 5 points clear of second-placed Denmark in a fantastic start to qualifying for the Boys in Green.
Here’s everything you need to know about Switzerland’s upcoming European qualifier.
|When is it?||Thursday 5 September 2019|
|What time is kick-off?||19:45 local time (19:45 UK)|
|Where is it?||Aviva Stadium, Dublin|
|Where can I watch it?||Sky Sports Main Event (UK), SRF Zwei (SUI)|
The biggest news in Switzerland’s latest squad announcement came with the absence of Xherdan Shaqiri, who chose to abstain from the national team. The Liverpool forward decided to focus on his club, making himself unavailable for the Schweizer Nati in a hugely controversial move.
Elsewhere, Vladimir Petković is without four injured players in Steven Zuber, Timm Klose, Josip Drmić and Djibril Sow. Breel Embolo, Mario Gavranović, Christian Fassnacht and Silvan Widmer return to the setup, while FC Basel youngster Eray Cömert earns his first senior callup.
The Republic of Ireland are without midfielder James McCarthy, who was forced to pull out through injury. Wolves’ Matt Doherty and and Sheffield Wednesday’s Kieren Westwood are also sidelined, alongside striker Sean Maguire who picked up an uncomfortable freak eye injury in training.
The Republic of Ireland are in fine form, unbeaten in qualifying and top of Group D. The Boys in Green haven’t lost in their last 5 games and have only conceded once in those outings, with 4 clean sheets and 3 wins seeing them well ahead and possibly on course for EURO 2020.
They cruised to a 2-0 win in their last match, defeating Gibraltar in Dublin back in June. A Joseph Chipolina own goal and a late Robbie Brady strike sealed all three points for the hosts, as they look to make it three consecutive wins on home soil.
Switzerland’s recent form has been far from perfect, though they came up against some tough opponents. They are winless in their last 3 games after results against England, Portugal and Denmark, conceding 6 goals in total against the latter two.
The Swiss are in for a tough trip at the Aviva, but scoring hopefully shouldn’t be a problem. They have failed to score just twice in their last 12 competitive fixtures, and will aim to make it back-to-back away wins in qualification on Thursday.
This will be the first competitive meeting between the Republic of Ireland and Switzerland in 14 years, when they drew 0-0 in a World Cup qualifier in October 2005. The result saw Ireland miss out on a place at the World Cup, while the goalless draw in Dublin was enough for Switzerland to reach the play-offs and eventually qualify.
Switzerland are unbeaten in their last 5 meetings with Ireland, last losing back in June 1985. They completed the double over them back in EURO 2004 qualifying, winning 2-1 in Dublin with goals from Hakan Yakin and Fabio Celestini and 2-0 in Basel with Alexander Frei and Yakin once again getting themselves on the scoresheet.
Despite the Swiss’ superior recent record, it it the Republic of Ireland who prevail on the overall head-to-head record. The Irish have 8 wins compared to Switzerland’s 5, while just 3 of their 16 meetings have ended in stalemates.
My Nati Lineup
Vladimir Petković has elected to play a back three in each of Switzerland’s 3 most recent games of 2019, but that cannot happen on Thursday. The 3-man defence has seen the Swiss ship 6 goals, and after a especially vulnerable display against Portugal it would be daft of Petković not to revert to his traditional back four.
The defence should remain the same, with Kevin Mbabu once again playing at right-back after a breakthrough few games. In the middle, I think Remo Freuler should complete a three-man midfield to bring a more attacking option to the side.
With Shaqiri unavailable, Admir Mehmedi will likely start on the left side of attack, as he brings experience and goals to the Nati. An injury-free Breel Embolo also deserves to start, after 2 goals in 3 Bundesliga games for new club Borussia Mönchengladbach.
After a tricky trip to Tbilisi and a difficult match against Denmark, Thursday’s trip to Dublin will be Switzerland’s toughest test of their qualifying campaign so far. Ireland are in outstanding form and will play their home advantage in their favour, as well as certainly benefitting from Shaqiri’s absence.
Switzerland’s recent fixtures have proven that they are far from flawless, and while they’re a top side they can be exposed. It will be a massive game and a difficult one indeed, and with both sides looking strong I think it’ll end in hard-fought draw.
My prediction: Republic of Ireland 1-1 Switzerland