Switzerland Vs Northern Ireland Preview


Mitch Freeley


Northern Ireland face an uphill battle to book their place at Russia 2018, and will be looking to overcome a strong Switzerland side away from home on Sunday evening. 

The Swiss who have only lost once in their last ten competitive internationals have a controversial 1-0 lead heading into the second leg. Referee Ovidiu Hategon awarded Switzerland a penalty after it was alleged that midfielder Corry Evans had handled the ball in the box, however the replay clearly shows that the ball striking shoulder of the Blackburn Rovers midfielder.

Despite the error, Evans was given his second yellow card of the game and will now be suspended for the match at St Jacob Park.  Millwall midfielder George Saville is expected to make his first international start for Northern Ireland as a replacement for Evans. Whilst in injury news Leeds Winger Stuart Dallas is doubtful to start, after limping off injured during the first leg. Jamie Ward of Nottingham Forest could be in line to cover. 

Northern Ireland Veterans Aaron Hughes and Gareth McAuley along with West Brom midfielder Chris Brunt could call time on their international careers, should Michael O’Neill’s side fail to qualify for back to back competitions in the first time in their history. 

As for the Swiss they will be looking to maintain their eight game winning streak at home. Having only just missed out on automatic qualification to European Champions Portugal after winning all nine of their World Cup qualification games. The Swiss are one of the form teams in European qualification, and will be expected to overcome Northern Ireland on Sunday evening. 

 Manager Vladimir Petkovic is expected to go with the same side that picked up the win in Belfast only three days ago. After picking up a vital away goal, the Swiss will be targeting at least another goal to guarantee their spot in their fourth consecutive World Cup. 

Defender Ricardo Rodríguez slotted away the controversial penalty in the first leg, and the AC Milan man will have to be at his best defensively if the Swiss are to qualify for the World Cup for the eleventh ever time. 

The only absentees for the Swiss are central defender Johan Djourou and former Watford midfielder Valon Behrami, both of whom are injured.