Serbia, Switzerland face-off in crunch Group E clash

Kaliningrad, June 21: Serbia will face a big challenge bidding to register their second consecutive win, this time against a Swiss side that is confident after holding Brazil to a draw when they face-off in a FIFA World Cup Group E game here on Friday.

Serbia defeated Costa Rica 1-0, riding on Aleksandar Kolarov’s left-footed free-kick, in their group stage opener. And a win over the Swiss at the Samara Arena will nearly propell them to the second round but it will be yet another complex game.

Switzerland have lost just one of their past 23 matches: a 0-2 defeat to Portugal in a World Cup qualifier last October. In pre-World Cup friendlies, the European side drew 1-1 with Spain and beat Japan 2-0.

Vladimir Petkovic-coached Switzerland carried on that form with an impressive 1-1 draw against Brazil in their World Cup opener on Sunday, showing remarkable defensive solidity and enough potency in attack to suggest that they might cause Serbia problems in Kaliningrad.

For Switzerland, Fabian Schar and Manuel Akanji are likely to play in central defence and there is a chance Johan Djourou could also start. Stephen Lichtsteiner and Ricardo Rodriguez will be the full backs with Granit Xhaka, Blerim Dzemaili and Valon Behrami in midfield. Up front Xherdan Shakiri, Steven Zuber and centre-forward forward Haris Seferovic will provide pace on the break.

The match against Brazil showed the Swiss can soak up a lot of pressure and keep their shape when they don’t have the ball, which will be important too on Friday.

For Serbia, holding midfielder Nemanja Matic, who is indispensable in the Manchester United midfield, will be key in his ball distribution.
Southampton’s midfielder Tusan Tadic, has 51 caps and 13 goals for Serbia, and contributes a lot at the offensive end, as is Torino’s Adam Ljajic. Serbia also have a dynamic midfielder in Sergej Milinkovic-Savic, who is coming off a fantastic season with SSC Lazio in the Italian Serie A. IANS