Switzerland and Spain will be looking for their first win of this edition when they lock horns in the UEFA Nations League Group A2 clash in Geneva.

Stade de Geneve will host Thursday’s UEFA Nations League encounter between Switzerland and Spain, with both teams aiming to put an end to their respective winless starts to the 2022/23 campaign. Switzerland enter the game off a 4-0 setback at the hands of Portugal in Lisbon.

Switzerland first defeated the then-world No. 1-ranked nation in France en route to the UEFA Euro 2020 quarter-finals, where they lost to Spain, ironically. Then they backed that progress up by gaining automatic promotion to the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar, finishing first in their qualification group ahead of Italy.

However, in football, every silver lining has a cloud and they have made a disastrous start to their Nations League campaign, losing their first two games and allowing six goals, which also makes the upcoming clash with Spain a must-win as they face the real prospect of getting relegated to League B.

Spain, meanwhile, came within a whisker of lifting their first UEFA Nations League title last season, losing 2-1 to France in the final. La Roja will have sought to go one better than last time around when they started their campaign. However, their hopes have been damaged after just two games, with Luis Enrique’s side only managing back-to-back draws and still looking for their first win.

Following a 1-1 draw with Portugal in their opener, Spain needed a last-minute equaliser from Inigo Martinez to draw 2-2 with the Czech Republic on Monday. Luis Enrique’s men will now make the trip to the Stade de Geneve and could not have asked for a better chance to return to winning ways, as they face a reeling Switzerland side struggling to keep the ball out of their net.

Spain had clinched a 3-1 penalty shoot-out victory to reach the semi-finals of UEFA Euro 2020 in what was an enthralling contest the last time they locked horns with Switzerland, with Mikel Oyarzabal dispatching the decisive spot-kick. Ahead of the latest meeting between the two sides, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at the encounter.

Team News & Tactics

Switzerland

There were no casualties from the game against Portugal for Switzerland, with Murat Yakin having the same squad at his disposal. But the Switzerland boss could be forced into reshuffling at the back and is facing a defensive dilemma after centre-back Fabian Schar picked up his second yellow in as many games and is suspended for the welcome of Spain.

With other central defenders like Manuel Akanji and Nico Elvedi injury doubts, Eray Comert may partner Fabian Frei at the heart of the Swiss defence. Yann Sommer should dislodge Gregor Kobel in between the sticks after the young shot-stopper failed to impress against Portugal last time out. Switzerland are likely to line up in a 4-2-3-1 formation in front of the 33-year-old.

Silvan Widmer should get the nod ahead of attack-minded Kevin Mbabu at right-back, whereas Ricardo Rodriguez remains an ever-present figure down the left. Up ahead in midfield, there is no looking past captain Granit Xhaka, whose progressive passing qualities would offer a nice complement to Atalanta’s hard-working midfielder Remo Freuler’s flexible movement in the double-pivot.

In attack, Breel Embolo could be in line for a start in the attacking midfielder role, with Xherdan Shaqiri switching across to his favourable right-flank. Meanwhile, Noah Okafor remains the only shining light of the campaign and will be a sparkling presence down the left wing. Benfica target-man Haris Seferovic, who had a goal disallowed due to handball against Portugal, is expected to lead the line for the hosts.

Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Sommer; Widmer, Comert, Frei, Rodriguez; Freuler, Xhaka; Shaqiri, Embolo, Okafor; Seferovic

Spain

Luis Enrique has ruled out the involvement of young winger Ansu Fati in the remainder of the fixtures this month, with the Barcelona winger battling his way back to full fitness after being sidelined for several months. Pedri is another notable absentee through injury, but La Roja have not reported any fresh concerns ahead of the contest with Switzerland.

Spain will continue to set up in their customary 4-3-3 formation against Switzerland, with Unai Simon getting the nod in goal ahead of Robert Sanchez yet again. But Enrique is expected to make wholesale personnel changes here, with Pau Torres, Cesar Azpilicueta, Jordi Alba, Sergio Busquets, Alvaro Morata and Ferran Torres all among those set to be recalled to the starting XI after being rested in the draw with the Czech Republic.

Pau Torres and Eric Garcia ought to form the centre-back pairing for La Roja, with Cesar Azpilicueta and Jordi Alba lining up as the two full-backs on the right and left sides, respectively. The latter will be responsible for much of the progression down the left flank.

With Rodri set for a breather, the vastly experienced Sergio Busquets might start in the middle of the park for Spain and could be assigned more of a defensive role to shield his side’s back-four. The remaining two slots should be taken up by Atletico Madrid’s Marcos Llorente, while young Gavi could be in line to start to provide the forward thrust from midfield.

Ferran Torres came on at half-time in the 2-2 stalemate with the Czech Republic on Sunday and will be looking for a start and an opportunity to improve on his goalscoring record, which has him averaging a goal every two outings for Spain, although he is currently on a three-game dry patch. Alvaro Morata and Marco Asensio should also come back into the fold, joining the Barcelona attacker in the frontline.

Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Simon; Azpilicueta, Torres, Garcia, Alba; Llorente, Busquets, Gavi; Asensio, Morata, Torres

Key Stats

  • Spain boast an impressive record against Switzerland, having won 17 of the 23 meetings between the two sides, while the hosts have managed only five victories.
  • Spain are undefeated in 31 of their last 34 games in all competitions but hold an uneasy record away from home in the UEFA Nations League, with just one win in their last six away games in the competition.
  • The visitors have been exceptionally good on the road, with a 2-1 setback to Sweden at UEFA Euro 2020 last year serving as their only defeat over 90 minutes outside of Spain since 2020 — a stretch of 12 games.
  • Switzerland have gone unbeaten in 29 of their last 30 home games in all competitions, with their only defeat coming against Spain in a penalty shootout in the Euro 2020 quarter-finals.
  • Murat Yakin’s side are without a win in their last four games in all competitions, including a 1-1 draw at home to lowly Kosovo in an international friendly, while losing the other three games.

Player to Watch

Gavi

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A year back, Gavi was just one of many talented unknowns in the Barcelona academy, but that was about it. Now he is the talk of the world of football at just 17 years old. And the wonderkid already has a couple of records to his name; he became the youngest player ever to play for Spain after making his debut for his country in the UEFA Nations League semi-final against Italy last year.

With his goal against the Czech Republic last time out, Gavi has now taken another step towards what could well be a glorious career ahead for the sensational midfielder as he became the youngest ever goalscorer for the Spanish national side.

Watching Gavi, it is easy to understand why he is drawing comparisons with legends like Andres Iniesta and Xavi and is tipped to follow in the footsteps of the Barcelona greats thanks to his drive and athleticism combined with intelligence and technical proficiency. Gavi’s impact in these last couple of matches has also proven that he is La Roja’s present, not merely their future.

Prediction

Switzerland 0-2 Spain

The loss of Fabian Schar to suspension is a big one for Switzerland, especially after their defensive collapse against Portugal. Switzerland have the quality to pull off a huge scalp on their day, but considering they have not actually beaten a top-ten ranked team in ninety minutes in the last four years, the balance shifts in La Roja’s favour.

While Spain have struggled to meet expectations this year and are not exactly in peak form, Luis Enrique’s side are quite clearly the better team on paper and should be able to pick up their first victory of the group in comprehensive fashion here, inflicting further misery upon Switzerland in the process.

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