La Roja are not the most free-scoring team in the world, but their defensive solidity is a major plus point.
Back Spain to win to nil (+122)
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When the Nations League was first proposed, the convoluted format led to initial resistance from soccer fans around Europe. But this is a tournament that works better in practice than it sounds in theory, and there is now near-widespread agreement that its introduction has been a positive development for the European game. For proof of that, witness how seriously the likes of Spain and Switzerland take the upcoming round of fixtures and compare it to the lack of intensity and motivation routinely on show in international friendlies.
Both of these teams have everything to play for as the campaign reaches a conclusion. For Spain, the prize they are chasing is qualification for the Nations League Finals. A win here would secure their spot at next summer’s mini-tournament if Portugal lose to Czech Republic. Any other combination of results would see the race for top spot in Group 2 come down to next Tuesday’s clash in Braga between Portugal and Spain.
Luis Enrique’s side currently hold a slender one-point advantage over their Iberian neighbors heading into matchday five. They are unbeaten so far, despite drawing their first two games against Portugal (1-1) and Czech Republic (2-2). Spain then beat Switzerland 1-0, before keeping another clean sheet in the 2-0 triumph over the Czechs last time out.
Spain are among the favorites to win the 2022 World Cup in Qatar later this year. These upcoming games will be used by Luis Enrique as preparation for the big event. La Roja are ticking along nicely: having reached the semi-finals of Euro 2020 last summer, this team is aiming to peak in November. Scoring goals has sometimes been an issue for Spain, so their manager will be hoping to see plenty of attacking quality from his side on Saturday.
There is also something on the line for Switzerland in their final two games of the 2022/23 Nations League. A place at the Finals is now beyond them, and a third-place finish would be considered a success from here. That is because the Swiss are currently bottom of Group 2 after collecting just three points from the four matches they contested in June.
That solitary success came in their last outing, a 1-0 victory over Portugal in Geneva. That victory will have given Switzerland some hope going into Saturday’s match against Spain, although this is a much tougher assignment given the match is taking place in Zaragoza. Murat Yakin’s side were competitive in the return fixture, going down 1-0 on matchday three, but they will have their hands full in trying to stop Spain on home soil.
Switzerland are also looking towards the World Cup and will not want to go into that competition on the back of five defeats in six Nations League games. A meeting with Czech Republic on Tuesday means the clash with Spain is not exactly do or die, but a positive performance (even if the result does not follow) would be a major boost to Yakin and his players.
Switzerland showed at Euro 2020 that they are a good side on their day – they reached the quarter-finals and deservedly knocked out France along the way – but a greater degree of consistency is what they need as they prepare for Qatar.
In soccer, the phrase solid defense tends to conjure up images of center-backs heading crosses away and well-organized defensive units denying an opponent space in the final third. Those traits are certainly valuable when it comes to repelling attacks, but a team which keeps clean sheets does not necessarily do so because their defenders are strong in the tackle. Often, the reason for the success lies elsewhere.
Spain are the perfect example. They kept clean sheets in their last two Nations League matches in June and may well concede the fewest goals at the World Cup, despite not having the best individual defenders. But because Luis Enrique’s side are so skilled at keeping possession, their opponents often go long periods without seeing the ball. That limits their opportunities to attack and thus reduces the number of goalscoring chances they face.
Switzerland are likely to encounter that very problem at La Romareda. And while Spain can sometimes struggle to turn possession in the middle third to danger in and around the penalty area, they should have enough quality to break down the Swiss in this one. Back a Spain win to nil in this penultimate Group 2 fixture this weekend.
|Teams||Spain vs Switzerland|
|Location||La Romareda, Zaragoza, Spain|
|Time||Saturday, 24 September 2022, 14.45 PM EST|
|How to watch||fuboTV|
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Greg Lea is a freelance soccer journalist from London. He is the former editor of The Set Pieces, and has contributed to the Guardian, FourFourTwo, and ESPN. A Crystal Palace fan, he is a long-time subscriber to the belief that it's the taking part that counts. Email: [email protected]More info on Greg Lea
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