STAR PREVIEW: Switzerland v Republic of Ireland

The Irish Coach Mike McCarthy during the International Friendly match between Republic of Ireland and Bulgaria at Aviva Stadium in Dublin, Ireland on September 10, 2019 (Andrew Surma/ Sipa USA).

For Ireland, the situation is simple. A win tonight against the Swiss, or against Denmark in Dublin next month, and they will be going to Euro 2020. The challenge for them is making enough chances to do so.

They have the harder task of the two tonight, heading to Geneva in what’s arguably the biggest game of the group so far.

There arguably shouldn’t be so much riding on this game for Vladimir Petkovic’s side. They had a three goal lead against Denmark in March only to concede three goals in the space of only six minutes. They then dominated Ireland in Dublin, having 60% of possession and winning the shot count 13-4 before being pulled back by David McGoldrick’s late header with just 5 minutes to go.

Their 1-0 defeat to Denmark over the weekend was also extremely unlucky, with four excellent saves including a fingertip denial of Ricardo Rodriguez and then a last minute fingertip save from what was sure to be an unfortunate own goal, along with two strikes from the Swiss hitting the crossbar and post before a brilliant Christian Eriksen ball saw Yussuf Poulsen take all three points.

If any of those results had gone their way then it’s likely they’d have a foot in the finals next year, but they still have a big chance to get there – they’re sure to be strong favourites to beat Georgia at home and Gibraltar away, earning them six points, so a win against the Irish tonight could all but get them over the line.

UEFA EURO 2020 Qualifier
Sky Sports Mix HD / Sky Sports Main Event HD

(Maximum 10 matches, since 2000)
SEP 2019 EURO 2020 QUALIFYING Ireland 1-1 Switzerland
MAR 2016 FRIENDLY Ireland 1-0 Switzerland
OCT 2005 WORLD CUP 2006 QUALIFYING Ireland 0-0 Switzerland
SEP 2004 WORLD CUP 2006 QUALIFYING Switzerland 1-1 Ireland
OCT 2003 WORLD CUP 2006 QUALIFYING Switzerland 2-0 Ireland
OCT 2002 EURO 2004 QUALIFYING Ireland 1-2 Switzerland

Ireland are likely to be a tough side to break down but they are not invincible, and in their goalless draw against Georgia on Saturday, they lost the shot count 14-7. The outstanding performances there came from Shane Duffy and John Egan, with Brighton’s Aaron Connolly impressing as a substitute when he came on. Connolly is likely to start but James McClean and James Collins cut frustrated figures and the Brighton man has a lot to do if he’s to overturn Ireland’s attacking performance overnight.

They also face a much tougher task – on paper at least – against the Swiss. The Swiss won 2-0 in Tiblisi back in March of this year and it’s worth remembering that they reached the knockout stages at the World Cup and were also semi-finalists in the Europa Nations League too.

Key playmaker Xherdan Shaqiri may be out but they have plenty of quality especially from deeper on the pitch. The experience and quality of Stefan Lichtsteiner and Fabian Schär provide them with quality attacking fullbacks and there’s also a controlling midfielder in Granit Xhaka to control affairs.

Breel Embolo’s pace caused Ireland no end of problems in the reverse fixture and he should be able to help Haris Seferović find enough gaps upfront.

Ireland don’t tend to suffer heavy beatings often – their last defeat by more than one goal was in September 2018, against Wales – but if you back Switzerland on the Asian Handicap, stakes will be refunded if they win by one goal and that could be the best way to play this game.

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