Slovenia desperately need to make amends for the opening defeat to Estonia as well as end a four-match losing run in all competitions, but this is definitely not the right time to be facing a side like Switzerland. Vladimir Petkovic’s charges may have lost to England, but they gave a very good account of themselves and they clearly go into this game as strong favourites.
Slovenia unable to match high-profile sides
Slovenia have been going through a very rough patch of late, having qualified for one of last six major tournaments. The team could only finish third in what was a very easy group in the 2014 World Cup qualifying campaign, with double defeat to Switzerland enough to suggest they face a very difficult task in Thursday’s game. Coach Srecko Katanec has returned to the helm since, but following the narrow win over weak Canada, Slovenia suffered 2-0 defeats to Algeria, Uruguay and Argentina before also losing to Estonia at the start of the Euro 2016 qualifying campaign. The recent results are enough to suggest the national team lack the quality to match world’s top sides, which is hardly surprising given that Srecko Katanec’s starters are either in poor form or not playing on regular basis. The coach’s decision not to call Josip Ilicic, arguably one of his best players, caused a lot of controversy in the media and also had a negative effect on the atmosphere, which is hardly perfect following the run of four straight defeats. Taking everything into account, I seriously doubt Slovenia will be able to match star-studded Switzerland side.
Midfielder Dalibor Stevanovic misses out through suspension, but Martin Milec returns to the side having missed the Estonia clash.
Unlucky defeat to England
Switzerland national team have been showing incredible potential over the last few years and they are finally proving their worth in big matches. Having eased off to a place at the 2014 World Cup, the Swiss impressed at the tournament finals, winning two of three group matches before giving Argentina a real run for their money in the first knockout stage. The team were obviously unfortunate to face los Albicelestes in the Last 16 stage since they would have probably gone farther in Brazil, but the tournament was undoubtedly a great learning curve for the players. Former Lazio boss Vladimir Petkovic has taken over the reigns from Ottmar Hitzfeld and without making too many changes, his side produced a very good performance against inspired England, but eventually had to settle for a 2-0 defeat after missing a host of clear-cut chances. Away match against Slovenia, a team they beat twice in the previous qualifying campaign, will feel as a perfect opportunity to make amends for the England defeat and no doubt the Swiss have enough quality and experience to secure a victory.
Eren Derdiyok has been overlooked, while talented Michael Frey was called to replace Mario Gavranovic, who had to pull out through injury.
With Slovenia losing last four matches in all competitions and their key players struggling for form, the hosts cannot be expected to end a poor run against very good Switzerland side. Vladimir Petkovic’s charges have an incredible amount of talent in their ranks and they should have no problems winning in Maribor.
Top pick: Switzerland Draw no bet 1.70 (7/10) @ Betfair
Alternative pick 1: Away win 2.50 (3/2) @ Betfred
Alternative pick 2: Switzerland to win to nil 3.75 (11/4) @ SkyBet