Switzerland will kick-off their preparations for the summer’s World Cup with a friendly match against Greece on Friday.
Switzerland will face off against Michael Skibbe’s Greece at the Athens Olympic Stadium, as they begin their preparations for the FIFA World Cup 2018 in Russia.
The Swiss national team, led by manager Vladimir Petkovic achieved qualification for the summer’s blockbuster event via a playoff triumph over Northern Ireland and they will be hoping to gain vital momentum by bagging victories in the upcoming set of friendlies against Greece and Panama.
Greece, on the other hand, failed to make it to the showpiece event in Russia, after they were seen off by Croatia in the qualifier playoffs last November. And manager Skibbe will be hoping that his troops rally around and put up a strong display against Switzerland and put behind the disappointment of missing out on the trip to Russia.
The two teams have met each other 11 times so far with Switzerland coming out on top on as many as five occasions, while Greece have ended up on the winning side just twice.
Team News and Tactics
Skibbe is likely to set his team up in a 4-2-3-1 formation against Switzerland, with Orestis Karnezis the first-choice option between the woodwork for the Greeks.
Sokratis Papastathopoulos is likely to be partnered up by Kostas Manolas in the heart of the defence against Switzerland, with 32-year old Vasilis Torosidis and Panagiotis Retsos set to start as the right-back and left-back respectively.
In the middle of the park, Alexandros Tziolis will take up one of the two pivot positions while the other spot is set to be occupied by Benfica midfielder Andreas Samaris, who will be making his 31st international appearance for the Greek national team.
31-year old Lazaros Christodoulopoulos is expected to line up on the right wing for Skibbe’s side, with Zeca, who made his debut in March last year, likely to slot in as the No.10 on Friday night. On the left-flank, it will be Anastasios Bakasetas, who has scored six goals and chalked up nine assists for his club AEK Athens in the 2017/18 campaign.
With 16 goals from 58 international caps, 30-year old Konstantinos Mitroglou pretty much picks himself as the lone striker for Greece for the friendly against Switzerland.
Probable Starting XI (4-2-3-1): Karnezis, Torosidis, Sokratis, Manolas, Retsos; Tziolis, Samaris; Christodoulopoulos, Zeca, Bakasetas; Mitroglou;
Switzerland too are likely to go in with with manager Petkovic’s preferred 4-2-3-1 setup much like their Friday’s opponents at Athens.
Seasoned pro Yann Sommer is likely to start in goal for La Nati, ahead of Borussia Dortmund shot-stopper Roman Burki. Sommer’s goal will be screened by the back four comprising of captain Stephan Lichtsteiner at right-back and AC Milan’s defensive mainstay Ricardo Rodriguez at left-back with Fabian Schar and Manuel Akanji in the centre of the backline, meaning former Arsenal man Johan Djourou will miss out.
Granit Xhaka is a guaranteed starter in the central midfield region for Switzerland. He is likely to be paired up with Atalanta’s midfield mainstay Remo Freuler, who made his international debut last year and has six caps against his name so far.
Xherdan Shaqiri has been excluded from the squad by the manager meaning the place on the right-flank is up for grabs and is likely to be taken up by Schalke’s young forward Breel Embolo. 31-year old Blerim Dzemaili is likely to slot in as the No.10 for the Swiss side, while FC Basel’s promising young attacker Dimitri Oberlin could be set to line up on the left wing.
Spearheading the attack for La Nati against the Greeks will be Mario Gavranovic, who has been in hot form for his club Dinamo Zagreb coming into the international break, having scored 18 times already this season.
Probable Starting XI (4-2-3-1): Sommer; Lichtsteiner, Schar, Akanji, Rodriguez; Freuler, Xhaka; Embolo, Dzemaili, Oberlin; Gavranovic;
Player to watch
Dimitri Oberlin (Switzerland)
20-year old Oberlin has been making quite a few waves with his performances for loan club Basel this season. The RB Salzburg forward, who can play anywhere in attack, has netted 9 goals and registered 1 assist in 31 games across all competitions.
A skillful player with great speed and ability to breeze past defenders, Oberlin will add a sense of dynamism to the Switzerland attack and he will be hoping to make an impact, should he be handed his debut on Friday.
Greece 0-2 Switzerland
Switzerland had been quite consistent throughout their World Cup qualifying campaign and had managed to register nine wins before their triumph over Northern Ireland in the playoffs. Greece, on the other hand, have lacked the element of consistency and given Switzerland’s upper hand in the tie historically, we at the Hard Tackle back them to come out with a comfortable 2-0 victory in Athens.