Belgium and Switzerland will face off in their second UEFA Nations League A Group 2 encounter at the King Baudouin Stadium on Friday.
The top spot in Group 2 of the UEFA Nations League A will be on the line when Belgium go head to head against Switzerland this week in Brussels.
Belgium, having finished third in the 2018 FIFA World Cup, trumped Scotland 4-0 in a friendly last month, before beginning their Nations League campaign with an impressive 3-0 win over Iceland. But, they find themselves in second spot behind the Swiss on goal difference.
And, manager Roberto Martinez will be aiming to lead his side to a victory against the Nati on Friday and claim pole position in the group.
Switzerland did not have the best of the World Cup campaigns, where they managed to win just one of their four games on their way to a Round of 16 exit. However, they trounced Iceland in their Nations League opener, beating them 6-0, only to succumb to a 1-0 defeat in a friendly against England a few days later.
Vladimir Petkovic’s side will be keen on retaining their position as the Group 2 leaders, but will have a difficult task ahead of them going up against a side loaded with quality like Belgium.
Team News & Tactics
A number of regulars are missing for the Red Devils for the upcoming games with defensive mainstay Jan Vertonghen ruled out with an injury, while his Tottenham teammate Mousa Dembele also misses out. Creator-in-chief Kevin De Bruyne has not been picked either, having recovered from an injury very recently.
Former Manchester City defender Jason Denayer has been brought into the fold by Martinez, along with Christian Kabasele and Dennis Praet. There is a first ever call up for 25-year-old defender Brandon Mechele.
Martinez will set his team up in the 3-4-3 formation that has got Belgium a lot of success in recent times. Real Madrid goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois should start between the sticks in Brussels, guarded by a back three comprising of Toby Alderweireld, Vincent Kompany and Dedryck Boyata, who is likely to step into Vertonghen’s place.
Thomas Meunier is fast establishing himself as one of the finest attacking full-backs across Europe and will start as the right wing-back, while Yannick Ferreira Carrasco is expected to feature on the opposite flank. In the middle of the park, it will be Borussia Dortmund’s in-form star Axel Witsel. And partnering him, in De Bruyne’s absence, will be 21-year-old Youri Tielemans.
Eden Hazard has been in scintillating form for Chelsea and will be Belgium’s biggest threat in the final third, starting on the left side of the attacking trident. Dries Mertens will resume duties on the right flank with Romelu Lukaku, who scored twice against Iceland, set to spearhead the attack.
Probable Starting XI (3-4-3): Courtois; Alderweireld, Kompany, Boyata; Meunier, Tielemans, Witsel. Carrasco; Mertens, Lukaku, Hazard;
Petkovic will be without the services of Admir Mehmedi and Johan Djourou, while young full-back Kevin Mbabu also misses out due to an injury. Right-back Michael Lang is back in the squad having been absent for last month’s assignments, while BSC Young Boys’ Christian Fassnacht has earned his first international call-up.
The manager had tried a three-man defensive system in the defeat against England in September, but is likely to revert to the tried and tested 4-2-3-1 formation for the trip to the Belgian capital.
Yann Sommer is a guaranteed starter in goal for the Nati ahead of Roman Burki and the uncapped Yvon Mvogo. Screening his goal will be a back four comprising of Lang and Ricardo Rodriguez as the full-backs on the right and left sides respectively, with Fabian Schar and Manuel Akanji at the heart of the defence.
Arsenal midfielder Granit Xhaka will take up the playmaking duties from a deeper role in the middle of the park and will be supported by the young Denis Zakaria, who impressed in the win against Iceland last month.
Attacking threat from the wide areas will come from the pacey Breel Embolo on the right flank and Steven Zuber on the opposite side, while star man Xherdan Shaqiri is likely to deployed in the No. 10 role. The Liverpool man will be the biggest thorn in Belgium’s side on Thursday. Leading the line for Switzerland will be Haris Seferovic, who has 13 goals in 56 appearances for the national team.
Probable Starting XI (4-2-3-1): Sommer; Lang, Schar, Akanji, Rodriguez; Zakaria, Xhaka; Embolo, Shaqiri, Zuber; Seferovic;
- Belgium and Switzerland have clashed against each other on 27 occasions previously, with the Red Devils coming out on top in 13 matches, while the Swiss have triumphed eight times.
- The two teams have met only once in the last 29 years – in a friendly encounter in 2016, which ended in a 2-1 win for the Belgians.
- Belgium have won 10 of their previous 11 fixtures. Their only defeat came against France in the World Cup semi-final earlier this year.
- Switzerland have won just two of their last six matches (D2 L2). They have only one victory in their last seven contests against Thursday’s opponents.
Player to Watch
Eden Hazard (Belgium)
Having narrowly missed out on the Golden Ball in the World Cup, the 27-year-old has carried on from he left off in Russia and has been in unstoppable form in the 2018-19 season for Chelsea. Hazard currently tops the Premier League goalscoring charts for the ongoing term, having already bagged seven goals in eight games, along with three assists as well.
The Belgian wing-wizard, who was on the scoresheet in the victory against Iceland last month, will be hoping to translate his club form to the international stage once again when his team take on Switzerland in Brussels. If he manages to get going, the Swiss are going to have a hard time containing his brilliance.
Belgium 3-1 Switzerland
Switzerland may have plundered six goals against Iceland last time out, but under Petkovic they have a reputation of being a low-scoring team. Moreover, they have been largely inconsistent in recent months and will find it difficult to repeat the heroics of last month.
Belgium, on the other hand, have been on a roll recently. Martinez’s men have won three in a row since their defeat to France in July and haven’t conceded a single goal in those games, while scoring nine.
They might be missing key men like De Bruyne and Vertonghen, but this Belgian side is loaded with immense quality and we at The Hard Tackle expect them to make light work of Switzerland’s challenge on Thursday to take top spot in Group A2 of the UEFA Nations League.