If you’d have asked me the question “Who’ll win the league in Switzerland this season?” at any point in the last few years, I’d have only been able to give you one answer. I’d also have burst with excitement at finding another foreigner interested in Swiss football, but that’s beside the point.
The only real contender in recent times has been Young Boys, the Bern-based side that have dominated the game here since 2018. In the four consecutive seasons that Young Boys have ended as champions, they’ve only failed to win the league by double-digits once. It’s been categorical every time.
But this season, things are looking a little different.
Seven games in (or thereabouts), and it’s FC Zürich sat atop the pile, followed by FC Basel and Servette FC (Geneva, to you and me). Granted, Young Boys have two games in hand on Zürich and could easily be top of the tree once more when they catch up, but it’s worth noting that the side from the capital haven’t been quite as dominant as most would have expected.
They’ve already dropped points in three league games, drawing with Grasshopper Zürich and Basel, and even lost in a shock result away at FC Sion.
In that time, of course, they did manage the small task of beating Manchester United in the Champions League, but with more tough European games eating into their schedule, and a new (albeit experienced) coach in David Wagner, it doesn’t seem out of line to suggest that Young Boys might have a challenge on their hands to keep hold of the title they won by 21 points last season.
On top of their rough schedule, they also have to contend with a few teams that have rediscovered the kind of form that had deserted them in former times.
Zürich might not be the capital of Switzerland, but it’s certainly the most prominent city. FCZ haven’t won the title since 2009, but are the current league leaders. They also have their city rivals Grasshoppers back to push them to prove their dominance.
Antonio Marchesano has 4 goals to his name, Assan Ceesay is just behind on 3, and the rest of the team have chipped in to make an impressive 15 goals already. Zürich’s problem, however, is keeping goals out. A 4-0 defeat to Young Boys is just part of the 12 they’ve already let in. If FCZ want to challenge for the top spot, that defence needs to tighten up.
FC Basel were the former undisputed champions of the Swiss game, but have faltered both on and off the field during Young Boys’ tenure. This season, however, they look a rejuvenated force under interim coach Patrick Rahmen. Sebastiano Esposito looks like an absolute gem on loan from Inter, Fabian Frei has earned himself a recall to the Swiss national team, and Arthur Cabral is absolutely decimating any defence that dares to stand between him and the goal.
In 13 games for Basel this season, he already has 16 goals and 6 assists. Monstrous numbers. If Basel can keep hold of him past January, they could be looking at a return to the Swiss title.
All of this could prove to be fantasy, however, if Young Boys keep up the kind of form that has cemented them at the top for the last four seasons. Jordan Siebatcheu completed his permanent transfer from Rennes, Christian Fassnacht continues to improve, and Ulisses Garcia has just earned himself a first national team call-up.
If Wagner can balance his strong squad through their league, cup, and European games, we could be seeing fireworks over Bern once more come the end of the season.