Gareth Southgate warns England Under-21s of stern Swiss test

Monday 16 Nov 2015
Gareth Southgate spoke to the media ahead of Monday's game with Switzerland
England Under-21s boss Gareth Southgate believes Monday’s game with Switzerland is a key fixture for his side.

The Three Lions take on the Swiss at Brighton’s Amex Stadium knowing that a victory will be enough to keep them top of their qualifying group going into 2016.

But after cruising through their qualifying campaign last term, Southgate already knows this group is going to be a lot tougher with both Switzerland and Norway providing a stern challenge.

England v Switzerland

UEFA European U21 Championship
Group 9 Qualifier
5.45pm, Monday 16 November 2015
Amex Stadium, Brighton
Live on BT Sport
Tickets: 0844 327 1901

"Last time we qualified with two games to spare, but I think this is a group which is going to be much tighter," said the head coach, who saw his side held to a draw away to Bosnia-Herzegovina last Thursday.

"All of the teams are capable of taking points and dropping points off each other, so I think this will go all the way to the last game.

"It would be nice to have that cushion if we got the three points [on Thursday], but when we came away from the game in Sarajevo, we were thinking that it’s was one where you could see the opposition ping a 30-yarder and walk away with the only shot of the game to win it.

"So it’s real football, it’s not junior age group football where you can score sixes and sevens every time, we’re into the real world and we’re going to have to play extremely well in every qualifying game to get there."

That result followed on from an opening game win against Norway in September before a comprehensive 3-0 victory over Kazakhstan in Coventry last month.

And Southgate is expecting the toughest test yet for his team against a Swiss side who arrive on the south coast level on points with England in the battle for Group 9 supremacy.

"They’re a very good side and we know they move the ball very well," he revealed. 

"They’ve got a pretty constant system of play and some continuity in selection of the team.

"Swiss football has a good youth system, most clubs seem to play in the same way and it’s fed down from the federation.

"They have some good technical players and good athletes in the team, so it’s a proper test for us.

"The game on Monday is a good test for them [players] and it’s the sort of international game that they’ll learn something from.

"The only way our young players are going to improve is by playing good sides and that’s what they’ll have to do on Monday."

There’s also another challenge for Southgate’s charges to overcome with Jack Stephens suspended for Monday’s game.

He serves a one-match ban, following his sending off in Sarajevo, so there will be changes to the starting line-up.

"Now Jack is suspended, we’re going to have to regenerate again, but they’re willing to take on new ideas and there’s an eagerness to learn and improve. 

"And every time someone gets an opportunity, they step up and take it.

"We’ve been really pleased with the clean sheets, because it’s an area where there were a lot of changes, putting a new back-four together and then two more changes for the game last week.

"We’ve had a positive start as a group, so it would be nice to keep that going but we know that it’s going to be a tough match for us and probably the hardest so far."

Tickets for the game cost £10 and £5 and are available via the Amex Stadium ticket office or by calling 0844 327 1901.

By Nicholas Veevers Content Manager - FA Owned Channels in Brighton