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Preview: Wales vs. Switzerland - prediction, team news, lineups

:Headline: Preview: Wales vs. Switzerland - prediction, team news, lineups:
Sports Mole previews Saturday's European Championship clash between Wales and Switzerland, including predictions, team news and possible lineups.
Sports Mole

Five years on from their magical run to the European Championship semi-finals, Wales begin their Euro 2020 adventure with a showdown against Switzerland in Baku on Saturday.

Both sides have ambitions of reaching at least the first knockout round in the pan-European competition, but Group A is arguably the most competitive of the lot.

Match preview

Just eight members of Wales's squad from the last European Championship finals remain, and even those - Gareth Bale, Aaron Ramsey, Joe Allen & Co - are no longer at the same level.

However, as showed during their qualifying campaign, when putting together a five-game unbeaten run to finish runners-up to Croatia, Wales remain a relative force.

The Dragons are effectively battling with Switzerland and Turkey for second place behind in-form Italy in Group A, and they can take confidence from recent results.

Wales have defeated a lot of similarly-ranked nations over the past year or so, including in the Nations League when finishing top to earn promotion to the top tier.

Losing their manager, Ryan Giggs, due to an impending court case is far from ideal, of course, but Rob Page has ensured a seamless transition in his seven months in interim charge.

There were positives to take from the 3-0 loss to France last week, as strange as that may sound on the face of it, though the less said about the 0-0 draw with Albania the better.

Wales do not qualify for major tournaments all that often, but when they do they tend to leave their mark, reaching the quarter-finals in the 1958 World Cup and semis at Euro 2016.

That has not really been the case for Switzerland at this tournament, having been eliminated at the group stage three times before a last-16 exit to Poland five years ago.

La Nati will be confident of sealing a best-ever finish this time around, particularly if their recent form is anything to go by.

They have won six games in a row and held Spain to a 1-1 draw ahead of that run, which stretches back to last November.

Indeed, only 12 nations in the entire world are currently ranked higher than the Swiss, so falling short at the group stage again would be a major disappointment.

With a number of talented players in their ranks, this may just be the year that Switzerland get it right at a major tournament.

Wales form (all competitions):
  • W
  • L
  • W
  • W
  • L
  • D

Switzerland form (all competitions):
  • W
  • W
  • W
  • W
  • W
  • W

Team News

Page still has a couple of big tactical decisions to make, not least whether to go with a three-man defence or four.

It is more likely to be the former, which would see Neco Williams and Connor Roberts operate as wing-backs.

Ramsey's lack of football for Wales over the past couple of years means that he is far from nailed on to start, and it may well be that he is used as a substitute here.

There have been loud calls for Kieffer Moore to start against Switzerland, though Page is more likely to operate without a recognised striker for now.

As for Switzerland, Vladimir Petkovic's starting lineup also has a couple of question marks ahead of this huge opening match.

Mario Gavranovic scored a hat-trick in the 7-0 win over Liechtenstein in La Nati's final warm-up and is expected to start alongside Haris Seferovic.

Granit Xhaka and Xherdan Shaqiri seem nailed on to start in midfield, with one of Denis Zakaria and Remo Freuler starting in the other central position.

Wales possible starting lineup:
Ward; Mepham, Rodon, Davies; Roberts, Allen, Ampadu, Williams; Bale, Wilson, James

Switzerland possible starting lineup:
Sommer; Elvedi, Akanji, Schar; Mbabu, Xhaka, Freuler, Rodriguez; Shaqiri; Gavranovic, Seferovic

We say: Wales 1-1 Switzerland

Wales are a tough side to beat in competitive fixtures and they also have a good record of keeping clean sheets, keeping out the opposition in three of their last four games.

Switzerland, likewise, have the ability to beat any team and head into this contest on a six-match winning streak.

Group A could well be dominated by draws, with Turkey in a similar boat to Wales and Switzerland, and we can see this fixture in Baku finishing all square.

Top tip

Our expert tipster partners at Sporita.com are predicting under 2.5 goals in this match. Click here to find out what else they are predicting for this game and for more of their tried-and-tested football tips.Under 2.5:data

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