Euro 2020 Champions Italy head group C with Switzerland in second and Northern Ireland a few points further adrift in third.
After a goalless stalemate between these two sides at Windsor Park last time out in September, where Northern Ireland arguably created the better chances but had to call upon Bailey Peacock-Farrell to save a penalty, the Swiss will be hoping to use home advantage to pull away and cement their top-two status.
The hosts are W2-D5-L1 since the start of the Euros over 90 minutes, though while this spell included that last meeting at Windsor Park, as well as a stalemate with Wales in June, the other draws came against elite outfits France, Spain and Italy.
The Swiss hold a pretty good record in qualifiers, losing just twice in their past 26 such fixtures, with those both coming on the road against Portugal and Denmark.
On home turf alone, they’ve won 13 of their past 16 unbeaten qualifiers, also registering 13 clean sheets across those games, so Northern Ireland are certainly up against it here.
After a hugely disappointing spell from November 2019 until March 2021, where Northern Ireland lost seven of 13 winless matches over 90 minutes, they’ve since picked up three wins and lost just once from their past five.
Admittedly, those victories came over minnows Malta, Lithuania and Estonia, so Ian Baraclough’s side still have plenty of convincing to do.
Switzerland To Win To Nil
The visitors are also hampered by a lengthy injury list. Sunderland midfielder Corry Evans was the latest to be ruled out, joining Shane Lavery, Ali McCann, Michael Smith and Trevor Carson on the sidelines.
In addition, Gavin Whyte has tested positive for covid, while key centre-back Jonny Evans hasn’t linked up with the squad yet and won’t feature in this clash.
Experienced Leicester defender Evans is clearly a massive loss, but Lavery’s absence could also be potentially important after a dangerous and direct performance in that recent clash between the two sides.
The Swiss are without Granit Xhaka in midfield, just as they were last time, but key man Xherdan Shaqiri also missed the last international break and is back in the setup, and will have benefited from some game time at club level having swapped Liverpool for Lyon this summer.
They have a solid team in all departments, and will expect to shut out their limited visitors and have enough going forwards to take the win.
SWITZERLAND TO WIN TO NIL