Albania v Switzerland, the second match in Group A after the French curtain raiser. Switzerland are ranked 14 in the FIFA World Rankings and are seen by a few people as a bit of a dark horse in this tournament. The Swiss have a few top quality players dotted around their team in the shape of Xherdan Shaqiri, Ricardo Rodriguez and new Arsenal signing Granit Xhaka, so they can cause teams a lot of problems.
They also have a very young side with most of their quality players under the age of 27, but they do have enough experience in there with players like Stephan Lichtsteiner of Juventus. Vladimir Petkovic will see this and the Romania game as must win matches that will help them get out of the group and into the knockout phase.
Albania on the other hand are not being backed by many to even escape the group, so easy peasy in the betting stakes right? Wrong. Albania managed to qualify automatically in second place from Group I, this group contained Portugal, Denmark, Serbia and Armenia and only the Portuguese finished higher than them, so they are no mugs. This surprising qualification was mostly down to a top quality goalkeeper and a brilliant defence. Sunderland 'legend' Lorik Cana is at the heart of that defence and is a shrewd customer, combine that with the brilliant Lazio goalkeeper Etrit Berisha and Napoli's full back Elseid Hysaj and its easy to see how they only conceded 5 goals in 8 qualification games!
The problem that Albania has is goals. No player scored more than a solitary goal during qualification and that, quite frankly, isn't good enough. Albania will need to find goals from somewhere if they're going to have any chance of getting out of this group. They will be comforted by their defensive record, but shooting practice should be top of the agenda.
I do think the Swiss will win this one, but if you're hoping for lots of goals being scored then I would look elsewhere. Yes they have brilliant strikers and wingers but the Italian-Albanian coach has drilled this Albania team defensively and knows exactly how to keep the opposition out, he's also proven it against Portugal who have Cristiano Ronaldo at their disposal. Yes Switzerland should win this but not at a canter. Only thing is I don't think Albania will score.
I think lots of people will be looking at this game and thinking it will be a spanking, if Switzerland get an early goal then they could well be correct but if Albania can replicate the defensive form that they showed in the groups then it could be a long day for Petkovic's boys.
Like I said before, I do think Switzerland will win this game, but not by a lot, certainly not talking 3-0 etc, it will be a low scoring game. Albania's defence can keep Switzerland out, England made Switzerland look very average in qualifying and seem very much a team based on confidence, if you can dent that confidence then you can give them a game.
Albania's manager will be telling his players to keep it tight and remain in the game for around 70 mins and then try and nick it with a cheeky goal, it is then that I think they may open up defensively and allow the impressive Shaqiri to strut his stuff.
I think the Swiss will score a late goal, meaning it will likely be 0-0 at half time. The Swiss took a while to get into the qualifiers with 2 losses in their first 2 games and if they start slowly again then 0-0 is probable because I can't see Albania scoring a goal.
Xherdan Shaqiri is a very impressive little winger and has shown his class in the Premier League and Euro Qualifiers this season where he was Switzerland's top goal scorer. If anyone can unlock this Albanian defence then it's this guy, he's a class act with all kinds of trickery and isn't afraid to shoot. Expect lots of head down and fancy footwork which is pretty much what football fans want to see as long as there is an end product and with this fella there usually is.
Ricardo Rodriguez is a competent left back that has been chased by Premier League clubs for a few seasons now. What makes him even better is that he is a free kick specialist that Wolfsburg have profited from a few times in the last couple of seasons. He is always capable of scoring them and it could be the key to unlock the solid, Albanian, defensive wall that will be put up. Definitely worth a cheeky punt.