MX23RW : Saturday, September 22 19:37:51

Preview: Republic of Ireland vs. Switzerland

Sports Mole looks ahead to Friday's international friendly between two sides gearing up for Euro 2016, the Republic of Ireland and Switzerland.

Two of the 24 finalists at this summer's Euro 2016 tournament in France face off tonight at the Aviva Stadium as the Republic of Ireland welcome Switzerland to Dublin.

Players from both teams will be keen to impress in what is the two countries' first international match in over four months.


Ireland

Republic of Ireland players celebrate after securing their place at the Euro 2016 finals on November 16, 2015© Getty Images

After qualifying for just one of the first 13 final European Championship tournaments, the Boys in Green have reached the glitzy centre stage on successive occasions for the first time in their history.

As it was four years ago, a playoff was needed this time around and Martin O'Neill's side secured themselves a spot in France by overcoming Bosnia & Herzegovina 3-1 on aggregate in November.

Attention now turns to this summer's centrepiece, and Ireland were dealt a tough hand when the group stage draw was made, with FIFA's highest-ranked side Belgium, always-dangerous Italy and Zlatan Ibrahimovic's Sweden alongside them in Group E.

They start their campaign with the most winnable of their three group games against Sweden on Monday, June 13 at the Stade de France in Paris.

In Dublin, O'Neill is unbeaten in his last nine home matches in charge (W6 D3) and the Boys in Green have scored in 17 of their last 18 internationals at the Aviva Stadium.

Ireland are 29th in the latest FIFA rankings, one place behind their neighbours Northern Ireland.

Recent form: WWWLDW


Switzerland

Switzerland's midfielder Granit Xhaka celebrates with teammates midfielder Xherdan Shaqiri (L) and midfielder Gokhan Inler after he scored the team's second goal during the Euro 2016 qualifying football match between Switzerland and Estonia at the Swisspo© Getty Images

Switzerland were expected to contend with England for top spot in their qualifying group, but Vladimir Petkovic's side could not live with the Three Lions and had to settle for second spot as Roy Hodgson's side won all 10 matches.

With eight more teams at the finals this year, second was still good enough for automatic qualification and Switzerland will probably be pretty happy with who they drew for the group stage.

Hosts France will be extremely difficult, but Albania and Romania will start as underdogs against the Rossocrociati, who begin their campaign against Albania in Lens on June 11. The Swiss have never progressed past the group stage in their three previous European Championship appearances.

Switzerland are 12th in FIFA's rankings and have been beaten just twice in their last 13 international games (W9 D2).

Petkovic had to return to his native Bosnia following the death of his mother on Saturday, but he is expected to be in charge at the Aviva.

Recent form: WLWWLW


Team News

Jon Walters #14 of the Republic of Ireland celebrates after scoring the opening goal from the penalty spot during the UEFA EURO 2016 Qualifier play off, second leg match between Republic of Ireland and Bosnia and Herzegovina at the Aviva Stadium on Novemb© Getty Images

Ireland's hero from the second leg of their playoff against Bosnia & Herzegovina was Jonathan Walters. The Stoke City forward scored both goals to seal his nation's place in France, but he will not play tonight because of a hamstring injury although should be fit to face Slovakia on Tuesday.

Robbie Keane and Anthony Pilkington have also been ruled out, with Keane taking longer than expected to recover from a knock sustained at the weekend while Pilkington has been troubled by persistent knee concerns.

Bournemouth midfielder Harry Arter had to pull out of the squad for both friendlies due to an Achilles problem.

Petkovic is expected to use the game in Dublin as an opportunity to give debuts to a number of youngsters such as Borussia Monchengladbach defender Nico Elvedi and Grasshoppers midfielder Shani Tarashaj, on loan in Switzerland from Everton.

Experienced Juventus full-back Stephan Lichtsteiner is a doubt and may not be risked.

Ireland possible starting lineup:
Elliot; Christie, Duffy, Keogh, Brady; Hoolahan, McCarthy, Meyler, Judge; Long, Murphy

Switzerland possible starting lineup:
Sommer; Schar, Elvedi, Klose, Rodriguez; Shaqiri, Xhaka, Behrami, Dzemaili, Kasami; Seferovic


Head To Head

The last time these two met was in qualifying for the 2006 World Cup, with both games finishing as draws.

It is 24 years to the day since Ireland and Switzerland last played a friendly. Jack Charlton's side won 2-1 that day against a Swiss side managed by current England boss Hodgson, inflicting his first defeat in charge of the Rossocrociati.


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We say: Ireland 1-1 Switzerland

Both managers will be keen to tinker with their squads, so a free-flowing contest might be a bit of an ask. Although England outclassed them in qualifying, Switzerland are still a strong outfit and Ireland will do well to win.


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Who will come out on top, Ireland or Switzerland?

Ireland
Switzerland
Draw
Ireland
54.5%
Switzerland
28.4%
Draw
17.0%
Jonathan Walters of the Republic of Ireland (14) celebrates with Shane Long (9) as he scores their first goal during the UEFA EURO 2016 Group D qualifying match between Republic of Ireland and Georgia at Aviva Stadium on September 7, 2015 in Dublin, Irela
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