Switzerland and Spain will both endeavour to end their winless starts to the UEFA Nations League campaign in Thursday’s League A Group 2 clash in Geneva. The hosts were thumped 4-0 by Portugal in their most recent contest, while La Roja left it late to rescue a point in a 2-2 draw with the Czech Republic. Early fears of a first-ever relegation to League B are just starting to creep in for Switzerland following their dismal start to the Nations League campaign, as Murat Yakin’s side could not respond to their opening-day loss to the Czechs in Lisbon.
William Carvalho and Joao Cancelo found the back of the net either side of Cristiano Ronaldo’s brace on a humbling evening for the Swiss, who could have very easily conceded a few more goals on the day, and preparations for Qatar could hardly have started off worse for the hosts. Yakin’s side unsurprisingly sit rock bottom of the rankings in League A Group 2 with two games gone and must still welcome Portugal to their headquarters before the month is up, while it is now three defeats and a draw from their last four matches in all competitions. Goalkeeper Gregor Kobel admitted that the “alarm bells are ringing” after the world’s 14th-ranked nation were torn apart by Portugal, potentially leaving the Switzerland hierarchy with a big decision to make over Yakin’s tenure in the hotseat if results do not improve.
Switzerland can at least boast an eye-catching 11-game unbeaten run on home soil before the visit of Spain, but it has now been over three-and-a-half years since their last official success in the Nations League after being awarded a 3-0 win over Ukraine in November 2020 due to their opponents’ COVID-19 outbreak. Thankfully for the out-of-sorts hosts, Spain have been unable to stamp their authority on their Nations League group either, and Luis Enrique was indebted to an unlikely name to prevent La Roja from suffering a shock defeat to the Czech Republic. On a night where Gavi became Spain’s youngest ever goalscorer, Jakub Pesek and Jan Kuchta struck either side of the 17-year-old’s effort to hand the Czech Republic a 2-1 lead, but Inigo Martinez headed home in the dying embers to rescue a point for his side.
After suffering late heartache in their draw with Portugal, it was a reversal of fortunes for the 2010 world champions on Sunday, and that result leaves the winless visitors third in the embryonic rankings with the Czech Republic still due to visit the Iberian nation in a few days’ time. Enrique has at least now overseen a six-game unbeaten run for his side in all competitions, and not since October 2020 have La Roja failed to score away from home, so news of Switzerland’s depleted defence will be music to the ears of the Spaniards.
Spain just about managed to make it past Switzerland on penalties in the quarter-finals of Euro 2020, but the hosts have only won one of their previous 23 meetings with La Roja in all tournaments, and confidence is not exactly sky high in Geneva right now. Switzerland centre-back Fabian Schar was cautioned for the second time in two Nations League matches last time out and is suspended for Thursday’s game, which is hardly ideal after Nico Elvedi and Manuel Akanji both missed out against Portugal. Eray Comert could therefore come back in to partner Fabian Frei here, while Yann Sommer should displace Kobel in goal and Silvan Widmer may come back in for Kevin Mbabu on the right.
Breel Embolo, Noah Okafor and Remo Freuler are also candidates to start as Yakin ponders a rejig, demoting the likes of Haris Seferovic and Jordan Lotomba down to the bench. As for Spain, Enrique has admitted that Barcelona starlet Ansu Fati – who is still experiencing extremely bad luck with injuries – may not play this month due to his ongoing fitness concerns. Enrique made wholesale alterations for the draw with the Czech Republic, and the likes of Pau Torres, Cesar Azpilicueta and Jordi Alba should all return to the backline for the visitors, while the cautioned Rodri is set to drop out for Sergio Busquets. Alvaro Morata and Ferran Torres are also expected to earn recalls in the final third after Raul de Tomas was given the nod but only lasted 61 minutes on matchday two.