Two sides who heavily defeated Iceland in their Nations League openers face off for the group lead in Brussels, as the World Cup bronze medallists face a Switzerland side that could accurately be described as “awkward”. Vladimir Petkovic will gladly settle for a draw here against a Belgian side that is certainly more talented than his group.
Belgium, for their part, will fancy their chances of securing Euro 2020 qualification by winning League A, and if they hope to do that they must consider this a three-point game. Although the Swiss side has its stars, there is nothing in the visiting squad to even begin to compare with a Belgian side who may leave a player of Dries Mertens’ incredible quality on the bench.
Belgium vs Switzerland Prediction: Belgium 3-1 Switzerland
Belgium will always be the subject of questions regarding their defence, but they came a long way through a World Cup which required them to knock out Brazil at the semi-final stage. Switzerland are certainly no Brazil, although they’re a nuggety, hard-to-beat side, but with the multifarious talents of Lukaku, Mertens, Tielemans and two Hazards (Eden, and The Other One Thorgan), we’d expect Belgium to comfortably outscore their opponents by the end of this game.
It would be very Switzerland for the visitors to throw the cat among the pigeons by scoring early on, so don’t be surprised if they do that and then still lose.
Our recommended tip: Hazard Outscores Switzerland
Belgium may well have the best player in the world in their ranks. Eden Hazard is a supremely-gifted footballer, and has spent much of the last few years playing for a Chelsea side that would be roughly a tenth as good if he were taken out of it. Under the management of new Chelsea coach Maurizio Sarri, he has been playing some of his best football this season, and if he can carry that form into this game it’s hard to see the Swiss defence keeping him under wraps.
If anything stands in the way of him living up to Betway’s 14/5 odds, it might be the fact that there’s probably going to be a queue of Belgian players looking to impress here.
The sides shared a World Cup qualifying group in advance of the 1990 tournament, which means they haven’t met in a real competitive encounter for the thick end of 30 years. For what it’s worth, Belgium won their home game 2-1, and the game in Switzerland ended 2-2.
More recently, the sides played a friendly in Carouge, near Geneva in advance of Euro 2016. On that occasion, the visitors won 2-1 with goals from Romelu Lukaku and Kevin de Bruyne in response to Blerim Dzemaili giving the hosts a 31st-minute lead.
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Players to watch: Romelu Lukaku & Xherdan Shaqiri
Lukaku has struggled to hit the heights domestically this season, but there’s debate to be had on how much of that is his doing and how much has to do with the frankly dismal early-season form of his club Manchester United. No matter – he’s already Belgium’s leading scorer of all time at the age of just 25, with 43 goals. Commanding in the air, strong in the challenge and with close control that would be impressive in a man half his size, he’s sure to be a threat tonight.
Shaqiri currently plays the role of “luxury substitute” in a Liverpool squad that has more than merited its place at the top of the Premier League. His skill on the ball is undeniable, and the fact that he doesn’t have to play for Stoke anymore means that he can show it when he gets on the pitch. Despite the fact that he’ll be playing for Switzerland, very much the Stoke of international football, he’s likely to be a standout here, too.