Schaffhausen v Thun
Schaffhausen were something of a surprise package in the Challenge League last season. They lost their manager Murat Yakin to the Swiss national team just two days into the new season yet still managed to secure a play-off spot on the final day in the most unlikely fashion. While they ultimately lost that two-legged play-off to Luzern, FCS can be proud of their achievements and will look to improve further under the new management of Hakin Yakin, the brother of former manager Murat.
20-goal striker Joaquin Ardaiz, Danilo Del Toro and Francisco Rodriguez are just some of the key players to have departed the WeFox Arena at the end of the season. With little movement in the other direction, the FCS squad looks rather depleted ahead of the opener, and added responsibility will weigh heavier on the shoulders of the experienced striker Raul Bobadilla.
Other than the departure of Dominik Schwizer, FC Thun’s most creative asset from the 21/22 season, it has been pretty quiet around the Stockhorn Arena. The experienced Leonardo Bertone does return to the team for a second spell after spending eight months at the capital club in 2020 while Nicolas Luchinger also comes in from St. Gallen, but the comings and goings have been minimal.
As a result, the visitors are the much more settled team coming into this one against a Schaffhausen side that look unprepared. FCS may strengthen in the coming weeks, but they look off the pace in numbers and also in their pre-season performances. I think Thun can take advantage and avoid defeat here.
Aarau v FC Vaduz
The match that closed out the 2021/22 Challenge League season is also the one to open the new 2022/23 campaign. That meeting back in late May at this same venue proved decisive in the pulsating finale to the title race. A 2-1 victory for the visitors on that night dropped Aarau to third, not only denying them the title on goal difference but also the promotion play-off spot as they, Schaffhausen and Winterthur all finished on 65 points.
It will be a new-look Aarau side that will set out to right the wrongs of last season. The three-time Swiss champions must find a way to adapt without the source of 41 of their 67 goals scored in 21/22 after the departure of Donat Rrudhani to YB, Randy Schneider to St. Gallen, Liridon Balaj and 18-goal winger Kevin Spadnuda to AC Ajaccio. They will be hoping the addition of Valon Fazliu (14 goals, 14 assists) from free-scoring FC Wil can prove to be a like-for-like replacement.
Vaduz have mirrored Aarau in a lot of ways, they looked in command for periods last season before their title challenge also fizzled out, and they also lost their top scorer in the shape of Simone Rapp to the 2. Bundesliga in Germany. Thankfully for the principality club, they retained the services of 14-goal Tunahan Cicek, the man that downed Aarau with a brace in the last meeting.
With the high-profile departures, I feel that both of these sides are weaker than they were last season. That being said, they still possess quality attacking options. I don’t suspect it will take Valon Fazliu long to shine for Aarau nor do I think Cicek will be any less potent for Vaduz. The visitors have also only failed to score once on their last ten visits to Brugglifeld and I think we’ll see goals at both ends in an entertaining opener.
Bellinzona v Lausanne
This match will feature two sides adapting to new surroundings in the Swiss second-tier. While the visiting side Lausanne are more accustomed to the scenery around these parts, Bellinzona haven’t played at this level since 2013. Saturday’s contest will actually be the first time that these two have played each other in league action since 2008, having previously faced off in the Swiss Cup in 2010 and 2011 where they traded away victories.
Bellinzona perhaps didn’t expect to be here at all, they finished five points adrift of the side FC Breitenrain in the Promotion League, and their ticket to the second-tier was only punched as a result of Breitenrain failing to secure a playing license for the Challenge League for 22/23. They have immediately set about improving their squad with the additions of Matteo Tosetti and former Lausanne player Rodrigo Pollero.
Unsurprisingly, ambitious INEOS-backed Lausanne have made big changes after their disappointing and unexpected relegation from the Super League. Former FC Zurich manager Ludovic Magnin is tasked with returning LS to the top-flight as soon as possible and has loaded his side with the likes of Olivier Custodio, Dominik Schwizer and Gianluca Gaudino, players that have been around these parts and are capable of ensuring that immediate return
Whatever happens at the Stadio Comunale, it will be a special moment for Bellinzona to be back in the Challenge League. There will be no room for sentimentality for LS though, they have built a side that has more than enough quality to win this league, and they can lay down a statement of intent against the newcomers on opening night.
Written by an Andy verified content writer
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