Both Switzerland and Slovenia opened with losses in the qualifying group, but there will be points to be had on Thursday. The soccer odds are in the Swiss team's favor, and we like their chances of getting a positive result.
The Slovenes are currently ranked #53 in the FIFA world rankings. They were at their highest (#15) in 2010, but have fallen off since, with hopes they'll turn things around and qualify for the European Championship.
Thing is, Slovenia is in a tough group, one that features England and Switzerland, so they're going to have to try and earn points here and there wherever possible. There are certainly some winnable matches out there for the Slovenes.
In the team's first qualifying match, however, Slovenia fell 1-0 to Estonia, failing to get the ball in the back of the net away from home. Making matters worse, experienced midfielder Dalibor Stevanovic was sent off after receiving two yellow cards, and thus won't be able to feature in this week's match.
Looking over the Slovenes' squad, it's hard to find and recognizable names. Their highest-capped players are goalkeeper Samir Handanovic, defenders Bostjan Cesar and Miso Brecko, midfielders Valter Birsa and Andraz Kirm, and forward Milivoje Novakovic. Handanovic plays for Inter Milan, Cesar (who's also the captain) and Birsa both ply their club trade for Chievo, and some other solid clubs like Fiorentina and Red Bull Salzburg are also represented.
This is a nation that's trying to fly under the radar and do just enough to qualify for the big stage. We'll have to see what kind of challenge they can muster up against the Swiss, though the Slovenes will have the benefit of being at home.
The Swiss were left disappointed by their performance in their first qualifying match, a 2-0 loss at home to England, the other big name in their group.
With the English not doing much to impress lately, Switzerland was expected to fare better, but the side wasn't able to break down England's defense in the loss.
Still, don't think about counting out the Swiss after one poor result. This is a very talented group of players, and one that will be motivated to right the ship.
There are some big names on the squad. Gokhan Inler, who plays for Napoli, is the captain, but don't forget about the likes of Xherdan Shaqiri, Valon Behrami and Stephan Lichsteiner. There's a lot of promising youth in the attacking force, including Admir Mehmedi, Haris Seferovic, Josip Drmic, and Michael Frey.
This is an outfit that's comfortable playing with one another -- the Swiss made a more-than-respectable run in this past summer's World Cup -- and knows how to grind out good performances, especially on the defensive front. Don't be surprised to see them earn a clean sheet against the Slovenes here.
There are two ways we can go with Thursday's match.
On one hand, we think there's value in taking the 'Under', as we expect conservative tactics from both countries, in hopes of at least salvaging a point towards the qualifying campaign. We don't anticipate many chances being taken in this one, which lends us to believe a low-scoring final could be in order.
We also believe the Swiss to be the superior team and think they could squeak out a 1-0 win or something of that nature. They've got a lot more experience and talent within their ranks, and know how important it will be to get points after not having anything to show from their first encounter with England. We're also recommending Switzerland be added to your soccer picks for the week.
Soccer Pick: Slovenia 0 Switzerland 1