Belgium and Switzerland both lead group A2 of the UEFA Nations League and both teams slog it out on Friday for top spot at the King Baudouin Stadium in a mouthwatering clash. The odds may favour Belgium with their star studded team but Switzerland are no push-overs at all. Often flattering to deceive, Belgium and their golden generation impressed at this years World Cup, beating England and Brazil along the way before losing to eventual winners France in the semi-finals. The fans will not have not been disappointed at the giant strides made by their team and will hope that they take that form into future competitions.
Switzerland had a decent run in the World Cup. They drew 1-1 with Brazil, 2-2 with Costa Rica and defeated Serbia 2-1 in their group stage games. They exited the competition in the round of 16, losing 0-1 to Sweden. Vladimir Petkovic’s men began their UEFA Nations League campaign with a 6-0 walloping of Iceland but came unstuck in their next game against England at the King Power Stadium, losing 0-1, albeit in a friendly game. Roberto Martinez’s Belgium also started their campaign on the front foot, routing Iceland 3-0 in their first league game in September and also smacked Scotland 4-0 in a friendly fixture four days earlier. Belgium have only lost one match since the end of August 2017 which was the semi-final loss to France in July. Their run of form has been nothing short of majestic, winning 16 of the last 19 games played and keeping clean sheets in their last three games.
Switzerland’s form may not be as impressive as Belgium’s but it is quite good. The 0-1 loss to England was only their second defeat in the last 12 games, winning six and drawing four. They have only failed to score twice in the last ten and have scored at least twice in three of their last five games.
Kevin De bruyne may be recovering faster than expected, however Roberto Martinez will have to plan without the magician as he is yet to kick a ball in anger since his injury. His injury has not created too big a vacuum for the red devils considering their results in his absence, so this should not be any different. Eden Hazard seems to have reached another level quite close to the Ronaldo-Messi bracket if not in the same class. His terrific form at the World Cup has been carried into his club form, being the difference between Chelsea drawing and winning games. He has almost single-handedly ensured that Maurizio Sarri’s term as Chelsea’s boss started on the brightest note possible. While Romelu Lukaku hasn’t looked quite as beastly in Manchester United’s colours this season, he has still scored twice against Iceland and once against Scotland in Belgium’s colours. Jan Vertonghen misses this game through a lengthy injury.
There are very few injury concerns for Petkovic and Switzerland. Xherdan Shaqiri has not expended much energy in a Liverpool shirt this season, so he should have enough in his tank to play a good game. Whether he is sharp enough though considering the few minutes he has played is another matter all together. Michael Lang of Borussia Dortmund should also return for this game. Petkovic favours a 4-2-3-1 formation, so Xhaka and Zakaria should reprise their roles as the double pivot. Haris Seferovic and Steven Zuber are also expected to take two of the remaining four forward roles.
Belgium will likely to push to score more goals to forestall a potential goal differential tiebreaker with Switzerland in this group while losing to Belgium will be no shame for Switzerland. That said, Switzerland will be aiming to add to their 8 wins in 27 competitive games against Belgium
This is a tough game but I expect Belgium to win this, it will be tough so I am going to go with a 1-0 win to Belgium.