FC Thun – FC Vaduz
Grasshopper – Young Boys
Basel – Luzern
Lausanne – Sion
St. Gallen – Lugano
As round 22 gets underway this evening, there will be a strange feeling of having to observe from afar once again. On the other hand, it will be accompanied by a greater sense of belonging having finally experienced Swiss football in the flesh.
We get underway with the 100th home game at the Stockhorn Arena in Thun with bottom side Vaduz the visitors. Departing coach Jeff Saibene is hoping to hand over to his successor with Thun still in the top flight but that is far from guaranteed as they are just two points above Vaduz in the drop zone. Recent performances have been encouraging and Thun certainly had the better of their draw with Luzern last week. Vaduz have not won in the league since late November but welcome midfielder Dejan Janjatovic back into the squad on his 25th birthday after a long injury lay-off.
“Can they score? They never score!” to paraphrase a famous line of commentary. I am of course referring to Grasshopper who have drawn a blank for four consecutive league games. In that time they have created 48 chances but had just 12 on target and were culpable for spurning some gilt-edged opportunities. Last season’s leading scorer Munas Dabbur is back and he cannot find his scoring boots quickly enough. It won’t be easy to find a way past YB keeper Yvon Mvogo – the finest in the league and a young man courting interest from abroad. One man who has no problem finding the back of the net is Young Boys striker Guillaume Hoarau who leads the goalscoring charts. YB have stuttered since their unbeaten run ended in Luzern and need three points with Sion starting to breath down their necks. All three previous encounters this season have been eventful and expect more of the same here.
Luzern coach Markus Babbel reacted to Basel‘s record financial numbers by joking that there isn’t much difference between the two clubs’ respective finances. With no Europe, champions elect FCB kept us entertained last week by going 1-3 down to Lausanne then mounting a dramatic comeback in the final quarter. Talisman Matias Delgado is still a week away from returning to action but Uri Fischer, subject of press speculation this week, still has plenty of quality to call upon. Luzern showed a fortnight ago against YB that they can be formidable opponents on their day but like Lausanne, find it difficult to maintain the necessary balance between defence and attack.
Lausanne go into the derby against Sion on Sunday wondering what might have been after last week’s devastating defeat in Basel. Comfortably the highest scorers in the bottom half, their aggression is also evident without the ball as they have conceded more fouls than anyone else this season. Both these sides have turned one another over away from home with Lausanne’s win in Sion a turning point for the minnows. One has the impression that whoever has the greater influence between Lausanne’s Benjamin Kololli and Sion’s Geoffrey Mujangi Bia will go a long way to deciding the course of this game.
St. Gallen may have capitalised on YB’s individual errors in Bern last week but nonetheless they will be disappointed not to have taken the three points home. Die Espen have too much quality to be sucked into the five-team relegation dogfight but eight points behind Luzern in fourth, look unlikely to challenge for a European spot. Lugano have improved considerably under their new coach Paolo Tremezzani and although they won in St. Gallen earlier in the campaign, only Basel have a meaner defence than the side from the east. Young St. Gallen striker Albian Ajeti impressed me last week and is looking to score in a fourth straight league game.