With Euro 2016 just around the corner, the participants begin their final preparations for the highly anticipated event and Switzerland will look to bounce back from back-to-back defeats as they prepare to host one of the tournament’s favourites Belgium.
Swiss en route to make history
Switzerland has never passed through the group stage of a European Championship and with this year’s edition of the tournament the Swiss are hoping to write history. The expanded format of the competition gives them plenty of reason to feel optimistic, but so does the favourable group. Switzerland have been pitted against hosts France, Romania and Albania in Group A and general consensus is that Swiss team should have no major problems finishing second, at least. Their road to France has been a comfortable one for the most part, except two comfortable defeats to England and an early setback in Slovenia which were the only bumps in the road. Vladimir Petkovic has made respectable results with his talented team since taking over in 2014 and he will be looking to utilise the qualities of his two most prominent players. Xherdan Shaqiri will definitely be the one to watch as the gifted Stoke forward will once again be expect to lead the line with his creativity and talent. Granit Xhaka has joined his team this week as an Arsenal player and former Gladbach enforcer will be particularly motivated to impress against Belgium and at Euro 2016.
Vladimir Petkovic will be without Renato Steffen who sustained a torn thigh muscle while playing for Basel on Sunday and who will miss the Euro 2016. Another problems for the Swiss is the absence of Fabian Schar who picked a knock during the week.
Can Belgium win Euro 2016?
Marc Wilmots has a group of talented men at his disposal and Belgium’s most recent results and FIFA ranking do make them outside favourites to be crowned the champions of Europe. Belgium were top of the FIFA rankins until April and now sit in second behind Argentina. Red Devils secured their place at the European Championship finals having topped their Group B in front of Wales and Bosnia & Herzegovina with seven wins, two draws and only one loss in ten matches. Wilmots’ men are in excellent form as they have suffered only two defeats in their last ten matches, the 2-1 friendly loss to Portugal in March being the one of them. However, the team has been distracted by the terrorist attack and there is no doubt that Belgium will look to improve their record against Switzerland already as they aim to return to winning ways. The Red Devils have begun their road to Euro from Lausanne this week as all of the team’s stars were involved in their first pre-season training session ahead of the Friday match. Eden Hayard will be the man to watch both against Switzerland and in France as Chelsea number 10 failed to impress during the regular season in his generally underwhelming team.
Vincent Kompany has been ruled out of Euro 2016 as Manchester City captain finished the season in a rather disappointing fashion. Jason Denayer has been touted to fill in for Vincent Kompany, while Marc Wilmots also gave a late call-up to Montreal Impact centre-back Laurent Ciman, who will be fighting for places in defence. Radja Nainggolan is another one unavailable as AS Roma enforcer will be out for about two weeks with calf muscle injury.
Switzerland prepare to host Belgium eager to bounce back from two consecutive losses to Bosnia & Herzegovina and Ireland back in March. The Red Devils are a group of highly gifted players who played important roles in their respective teams and I expect Marc Wilmots’ men to live up to their reputation as Euro 2016 favourites.
Top pick: Belgium 2.4 (7/5) @WilliamHill
Altetnative pick 1: Draw/Belgium 6.00 (5/1) @888sport
Alternative pick 2: Under 2.5 goals 1.62 (8/13) @Bet365