Switzerland take on Argentina in Sao Paulo on Tuesday in a clash that sees two sides who have flattered to deceive so far in the tournament, looking to make their mark. Although Argentina won all three of their group games and are one of only four nations to have done so, they come into the Round of 16 clash with the Swiss knowing fully well that the only reason they are here is thanks to Lionel Messi. Much like Argentina, the Swiss too have been far from convincing. Although they bounced back from a 5-2 defeat to France by beating Honduras in their final group game, they are well aware of the fact that Argentina will prove to be much stronger opposition. Who will prevail in this clash of two sides with plenty of attacking potential? Will there be goals galore in Sao Paulo? Or will we see a tight, tactical affair? We will have to wait and watch today’s fixture i.e. Argentina vs Switzerland.
Although Argentina have no real worries with regards to suspensions, Sergio Aguero’s injury early in the game against Nigeria means that Alejandro Sabella will be without his key striker against Switzerland. His place is likely to go to the man who replaced him in the final group game, Ezequiel Lavezzi.
Another change that the manager might be forced to make is the removal of his other striker Gonzalo Higuain. The Napoli striker hasn’t really had a great World Cup so far, so it wouldn’t be a surprise if he loses his place to the impressive Rodrigo Palacio.
Expected Starting Line-up (4-3-3): Sergio Romero; Pablo Zabaleta, Ezequiel Garay, Federico Fernández, Marcos Rojo; Fernando Gago, Javier Mascherano, Angel Di Maria; Lionel Messi, Gonzalo Higuain, Ezequiel Lavezzi
La Nati have no injury or suspension worries ahead of the game against the Albiceleste and are likely to go with the same team that started in the 3-0 victory over Honduras. Fabian Schär who excelled in place of the injured von Bergen is expected to keep his place in the starting XI.
Hat-trick hero Shaqiri is likely to start just behind striker Drmic after the pair combined to great effect against the Hondurans. The form of Inler and Behrami means that Blerim Dzemaeli looks set to come from the bench yet again.
Expected Starting Line-up (4-2-3-1): Diego Benaglio; Stephan Lichtsteiner, Fabian Schär, Yohan Djourou, Ricardo Rodriguez; Gokhan Inler, Valon Behrami; Granit Xhaka, Xherdan Shaqiri, Admir Mehmedi; Josip Drmic
Lionel Messi vs Ricardo Rodriguez
If it weren’t for Messi’s goals Argentina wouldn’t be in the Round of 16, it is as simple as that. The 27-year-old who only last week celebrated his birthday has been an integral part of Argentina’s attack. With Messi expected to line up on the right side of a three-man attack, he will go up against Ricardo Rodriguez, arguably one of the finest full backs in this tournament. If the Swiss are to have any chance in this game, Rodriguez has to have a blinder and stop Messi from doing what he does best. If he does, then La Nati’s chances improve exponentially.
Xherdan Shaqiri vs Javier Mascherano
He might be sparingly used by Bayern Munich, but for Switzerland, Shaqiri is the main attacking weapon. Fast, skilful and possessing a bucket load of tricks, he is every defender’s worst nightmare. Although he primarily plays on the wings, against Honduras he played through the middle, with devastating effect as he scored a hat-trick and helped his side qualify for the knockout round. While going forward, he will come up against arguably one of the tournament’s most seasoned midfielders in Mascherano. If Shaqiri can get the better of the Argentinean, the Swiss might just have a chance.
Path to the Round of 16:
vs Bosnia-Herzegovina 2-1
vs Iran 1-0
vs Nigeria 3-2
vs Ecuador 2-1
vs France 2-5
vs Honduras 3-0
A clash of two sides who love to attack, this game is likely to be one of the most entertaining Round of 16 clashes yet. The game also pits together two world class playmakers in Shaqiri and Messi, both of whom are in fabulous form. If Argentina score first, expect this to be a high-scoring affair with chances aplenty for both sides. If the Swiss score on the other hand, Hitzfeld might be happy to sit back and hold onto what they have. So what’s it going to be? I’m going for a high-octane 90 minutes with both sides scoring twice. With the Swiss going through in extra-time 3-2.