Switzerland host Spain at St. Jakob-Park in Basel on Saturday night in the UEFA Nations League. Vladimir Petković’s side need a win to keep their hopes of avoiding relegation to the lower tier of the competition. Spain are currently one point ahead of Germany at the top of the group in the chase for a semi-final spot. Spain won 1-0 in the first meeting between these sides in Madrid in October but the Swiss famously beat La Roja 1-0 at the 2010 FIFA World Cup. A low-scoring affair is expected here.
Since international football resumed this year, Switzerland have failed to win any of their six matches. In the UEFA Nations League, they have managed impressive draws with Germany, 1-1 at home and 3-3 away but lost away in Ukraine and in Spain. They also lost 2-1 at home to Croatia in October in a friendly. On Wednesday, they lost 2-1 to Belgium in a friendly match, played away from home.
Switzerland Team News
The biggest loss for the Swiss is that of highly-rated defensive midfielder, Denis Zakaria. The Borussia Mönchengladbach man, who has been linked with Chelsea, had knee surgery in May and is yet to return. Also missing is Norwich City’s Josip Drmić in attack.
Xherdan Shaqiri has been doing well in terms of performances and fitness at Liverpool and should start the match, whilst Granit Xhaka will captain the side in central midfield. He has recently lost his place at Arsenal and will want to impress. Mario Gavranović should start up front after his brace in the 3-3 draw against Germany.
The Swiss side should be fully motivated and focused for this game. A win is needed to close the current four-point gap to Ukraine ahead of hosting them on Tuesday. Petković usually sets his side up conservatively in a 3-5-2 shape that comes a 5-3-2 when defending and it is not likely they will enjoy much of the ball in this game. When these sides met in October, Spain had 60% possession and 12 shots to just four for the Swiss.
Luis Enrique returned to the Spain job in November 2019 after personal issues but had to wait until September 2020 for his first game back. He has since overseen six matches, with two wins, three draws and a defeat away to Ukraine.
Spain’s two home games in the UEFA Nations League have seen them win 4-0 against Ukraine and 1-0 against Switzerland. Away from home, they lost to Ukraine but got a 1-1 draw in Germany and also drew 0-0 away in a friendly with Portugal recently. On Wednesday, they drew 1-1 away to the Netherlands. Sergio Canales gave La Roja the lead before Donny van de Beek levelled.
Spain Team News
Spain rotated their side against the Netherlands as Sergio Ramos, Sergio Busquets and David de Gea all got a breather. However, Ramos did appear for seven minutes to reach 176 caps and equal Gianlugi Buffon’s caps record. All three should return to start this match.
For Luis Enrique, the big decision is probably in attack where Alvaro Morata’s six goals in eight games for Juventus should earn him another start after getting an assist on Wednesday. Ferran Torres is also pushing to play after some strong UEFA Champions League form for Manchester City.
At right-back, Hector Bellerín made his first appearance in four years on Wednesday and should keep his place. There is a question mark on the opposite flank as José Luis Gayà had to have stitches on Wednesday so Sergio Reguilón could take the left-back role.
Spain are top of the group and host Germany on Tuesday, but they will want to win this game and be able to play for a draw if needed in their final game. Enrique’s side tends to be defensive on the road, using possession as a means to control the game but also being adept at counter-attacking, something he brought to Barcelona when coaching the Catalan giants.
Switzerland have won none of their 6 matches
Switzerland have gone 7 matches without a clean sheet
Switzerland have seen under 2.5 goals in 2 of their last 3 competitive matches
Switzerland have 1 draw and 1 loss in their last two home matches
Spain have failed to score more than 1 goal in any of their last 6 away matches
Spain have seen under 2.5 goals in each of their last 6 matches
Spain are six away games without a win
This looks likely to be a low scoring game. Spain are overdue a win away from home so I am going for them to take the victory here.