herald

Thursday 12 December 2019

Swiss aiming to end 'negativity'

Xherdan Shaqiri
Xherdan Shaqiri

Switzerland's coach Vladimir Petkovic hopes that a peace deal agreed with Liverpool star Xherdan Shaqiri can "end the negativity" surrounding the national side as they prepare to face Ireland in 10 days' time.

The Swiss, who are three points behind Group D leaders Ireland but have a game in hand, are facing into a double header, away to Denmark and at home to Ireland, which could decide their Euro 2020 fate.

Manager Petkovic has named a 23-man squad for the two games, involving a recall for veteran Stephan Lichtsteiner (35) and Norwich City forward Josip Drmic, who has scored an impressive 10 goals in his 34 appearances for the national side.

Anfield man Shaqiri was not included in the squad, even though he has agreed to end his self-imposed exile from the national team following clear-the-air talks with the manager in Liverpool earlier this week, as he is out with a calf injury picked up while training with his club.

Shaqiri's absence dominated the talk in Switzerland before and after their 1-1 draw in Dublin last month, and while he will also miss the clash with Ireland in Geneva, the under-fire Petkovic hopes the nation can move on.

"We need positivity and must leave behind the negativity," Petkovic said.

"I love him as a player and as a person and Xherdan is happy.

"We all want to do everything we can to make sure that our team is doing well, that it's even better. We now know what to expect from Ireland, after their home game against us, and we have to try and win the next two matches."

Georgia's plans for their game at home to Ireland next Saturday have suffered a blow as Hungary-based defender Lasha Dvali has been forced to withdraw due to injury. Veteran Giorgi Navalovski (33) has been called up as a replacement.

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