Saint-Étienne (France) (AFP) – Experience forged in the German league will help Switzerland’s Bundesliga stars when they face Robert Lewandowski’s Poland in the last 16 at Euro 2016 on Saturday.
Switzerland and Poland have both qualified for the knockout phase of a European Championship finals for the first time.
But Adam Nawalka’s Poland have reason to be more optimistic with four wins in their ten meetings, while the Swiss have won just once.
With 11 of the Swiss squad having plied their trade in Germany’s top flight last season — including Arsenal-bound Granit Xhaka — the Swiss know what to expect at the Stade Geoffroy-Guichard.
The main threat to the Swiss goal comes not just from Bayern Munich striker Lewandowski, but Borussia Borussia Dortmund winger Jakub Blaszczykowski.
His goal off the bench sealed Poland’s 1-0 win over Ukraine which confirmed their place in the last 16 as Group C runners up behind Germany.
Dortmund left-back Lukasz Piszczek is always a threat with crosses from the left flank for Ajax striker Arkadiusz Milik in the middle.
“They’re definitely a difficult opponent,” said Switzerland goalkeeper Yann Sommer, who plays for Borussia Moenchengladbach.
“We all know Lewandowski from the Bundesliga.
It would be foolish to call Poland a one-man team though. There are many other quality players in their side.”
The Swiss could have played Germany in Saint-Etienne, but they face just as tough a challenge against Poland.
The Poles held the world champions to a goalless draw in Paris in their group stage game.
“They might not be as big a name as Germany, but Poland proved how strong they are when we drew 2-2 with them in Wroclaw in November 2014,” said Switzerland’s Hoffenheim defender Fabian Schaer.
“Lewandowski is their biggest player, but other members of their squad play for clubs in some of the best leagues in Europe.
“We respect them, but we’re not scared.”
Lewandowski was the top scorer in Euro 2016 qualifiers with 13 goals and bagged 42 goals in all competitions for Bayern last season.
The 27-year-old has yet to open his account at the finals in France and says the Swiss will start as favourites to reach the quarter-finals.
“The Swiss are a very good team, one of the best in Europe, and they are the favourites,” Lewandowski told Polish news agency PAP.
“But like any team they have their weak points and I hope that we’ll be able to take advantage of them.”
Since their goalless draw against France on Sunday, the Swiss have had two extra rest days to recover compared to the Poles, who beat Ukraine 1-0 on Tuesday.
“Four days rest will be enough for us,” said Lewandowski. “I feel this won’t make much of a difference.”
The Swiss have no injury concerns before Vladimir Petkovic’s side head to Saint-Etienne.
Poland’s main concern is injury to goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny with Lukasz Fabianski again set to deputise between the posts.
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