Four points clear at the peak of 2014 FIFA World Cup qualifying Group E, Switzerland have every reason to be confident going into Friday's encounter with Iceland in Berne.
What's most impressive about Ottmar Hitzfeld's team is the fact they are unbeaten in qualifying having been breached just once in six outings. The hosts also hold a five-point advantage over Iceland in third and are widely tipped to stride further clear of their section rivals. "We have coped with being favourites so far," said Hitzfeld, who is staying grounded despite a surprise 1-0 Basel friendly defeat of Brazil last month. "There's a lot more pressure surrounding this game against Iceland."
VfL Wolfsburg defender Timm Klose, who featured as a substitute in Switzerland's 2-0 success in the corresponding fixture in Reykjavik last October, also cut a cautious figure as he spelled out the challenge at Stade de Suisse. "Our win in Reykjavik took a lot of hard work. Iceland are very strong in defence and will wait for their chance to counter," said the 25-year-old. "We can't get caught up playing pretty football but instead need to work effectively to score goals."
With skipper Gökhan Inler ruled out through suspension, Hitzfeld bestowed high praise on uncapped PFC CSKA Moskva attacking midfielder Steven Zuber, who is set to deputise."It's the right moment to play him. He has put in some superb performances recently," said the former FC Bayern München boss.
Meanwhile, Lars Lagerbäck pinpointed the twin virtues of focus and organisation as key to the visitors' fortunes. "In such a game it is very important to maintain your concentration and to remain organised and compact as a team. Even if we lose we still have a chance of making the play-offs by winning our last three games, two of which are at home. So our chances are good," explained Lagerbäck, whose side trail second-placed Albania by a single point.
"If everyone is fit we have a strong team that is better than last year. Perhaps we can surprise Switzerland with who we pick and how we play. The great thing about football is that the underdog always has a chance," he added. Ambitious captain Aron Gunnarsson echoed Lagerbäck's positive sentiments, saying: "The key is to keep it tight in defence and take our chances when they come along. Our team never think about a point, we always go out to get all three regardless of the opponent."