Neuchatel Xamax v Stade Lausanne-Ouchy
The revival of Neuchatel Xamax isn’t necessarily gathering steam, but it is making slow and steady progress. After a dismal run at the beginning of the season that brought just one win and nine defeats in eleven matches, with that win coming at the tenth time of asking, it is safe to assume that Xamax fans will be content with their current four-match unbeaten run, even if all of them have been drawn with the four teams directly above them in the table. The gap to Vaduz Snow sits at five points and it could be argued that those are the matches that Jeff Saibene’s side really must win to escape the relegation play-off place they occupy, especially when their final three games before the winter break come against the three teams in the top three positions in the league.
The first of those three comes in the shape of the league leaders Stade Lausanne-Ouchy. It has been a surprising season for SLO, they are overshadowing their neighbours Lausanne and look like genuine contenders for promotion to the Super League. They head to the Stade de la Maladiere having lost only one of their last ten matches and winning seven of their last eight. If that wasn’t ominous enough for Neuchatel Xamax, their visitors actually perform better away from home and have picked up more points than anyone else on the road this season.
Despite a slight improvement, Xamax still have a terrible record against teams in the top half and now have to match up against the in-form team in the league. SLO have conceded the fewest goals of anyone on their travels and have kept three clean sheets in their last three away wins. They are capable of making it four wins in a row here.
Yverdon-Sport v Vaduz
It has been a little bit of a rollercoaster for Yverdon-Sport fans so far in this campaign. The team is still in the thick of the promotion race as we hurtle towards the last three games before the winter break and that is more than anyone would’ve expected at this stage. As their league position suggests, form has been mostly good, but YS seem to have large peaks and then freefall before steadying the ship. For example, early season form brought five wins from six before four winless games were followed up by four consecutive wins in October. This has kept them on the tails of Wil and SLO and their fans will be hoping a 3-2 loss at Aarau last time out won’t serve as the beginning of another dip.
As much as becoming the first Liechtensteiner team to qualify for European competition was a very proud moment for Vaduz, the principality club is probably happy to see the back of a UECL adventure that undoubtedly contributed to a failure to really get underway in the 22/23 domestic season. The conclusion of the Group Stage means FCV will play two consecutive Challenge League matches without Conference League interruption for only the second time this season. The last time that happened, Vaduz won their only domestic match to date. It isn’t hard to see why no more European distractions might be a good thing.
Matches involving Yverdon-Sport continue to be thrilling, the five goals shared with Aarau was the eighth game in a row that there has been at least three goals in a match involving Marco Schaillibaum’s men. I expect that theme to continue here against a Vaduz side that will improve now that their sole focus is on league duties. FCV have also had at least three goals in four of their last five matches in this division.
Thun v Schaffhausen
Thun and Schaffhausen meet at the Stockhorn Arena on Friday night separated by just a point in the bottom half of the Challenge League table. It is a position that neither wants to be in and that both will be hoping to improve by ending their own disappointing form and extending that of their opponents.
The home side lost a third consecutive league game on their own patch for the first time in the two-and-a-half seasons they have spent at this level. It is an unusual feeling as, despite their generally shaky form overall, they usually could always rely on being difficult to beat at the Stockhorn. After going seven games unbeaten in August and September, Thun’s defeat to Wil was the fourth in their last five matches. Some solace can be taken from the fact that those three home defeats came to the top three sides in the league and that the other loss was away at promotion favourites Lausanne-Sport.
Unlike their hosts, Schaffhausen were on cup duty in midweek and suffered an embarrassing 2-1 loss to fourth-tier Rotkruez. The result brings their winless run to seven games in all competitions and heaps the pressure on Hakin Yakin.
Neither of these teams are in a good place currently and will both view this game as a big opportunity to turn things around. Thun have only failed to score twice in their last twenty-eight home games, against eventual champions Winterthur last season and also against SLO’s rock-solid defence. Schaffhausen have lacked a cutting edge at home but have a knack for finding the net away, scoring in six of their last seven, including three goals against FC Wil last time out. With Thun leaking goals at home lately too, I think we’ll get goals at both ends.
Written by an Andy verified content writer
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