Swiss football expert Craig King kindly took the time to break down Rangers Champions League opponents Servette. He offered a back story of the club and what to expect on Wednesday. The report includes their play style and key players to watch. Below is what Craig had to say.
Servette’s story is quite unique. They were founded in 1890 with a focus primarily on rugby before the football department was then founded in 1900 and they’ve had a rich history ever since. It is fair to say that their glory days are behind them to an extent, they’ve won 17 league titles which makes them the third-most successful Swiss club, although YB are breathing down their necks now, but the last of those titles came in 1999. They had claimed at least one title in every decade since the 40’s but that 17th crown before the turn of the century really marked their last stand as a powerful force. They wouldn’t even finish us runners-up again until last season. SFC also had success in Europe too, they reached the Last 16 of the UCL in 1962, 1980 and 1986, the quarter finals of the Cup Winners Cup in 1967 and 1969, and also the Last 16 of the UEFA Cup in 2002. It was soon after that, that things started to unravel in Geneva.
For pretty much all of this century, they’ve been beset with financial issues. A combination of bad owners, false promises and generally bad decision-making across the board. In 2005, they would be kicked out of the Super League without finishing the season. They took the place of their reserve team in the third-tier of Swiss football and eventually worked their way back up to the top-flight.
The same issues would return and the club neared bankruptcy again. They were relegated for the first time (on the pitch at least) in 2013 and would spend the next six years oin the lower leagues. Everything reached its peak in 2015 when the club, who had finished runners-up in the Swiss second tier, were demoted down to the third-tier after failing to obtain a license to play second-tier football.
Their unsteady financial position was something the SFL was not prepared to take a chance on.
The club would change hands with the 1890 Foundation taking over, headed by a local businessman from Geneva who is well-connected and more level-headed than the ambitions of the owners in the past to fast track the team into the Champions League.
Since then, it is a lot rosier in Geneva and the club have worked their way back into the top-flight and as a club consistently challenging near the top of the table. They have finished in the top five in all but once since their 2019 return and claimed second place last year. Having played in Europa League qualifiers a couple of seasons ago, to qualify for the UCL is a massive achievement.
Servette replaced long-term coach Alain Geiger, who had led the team from 2018, with Rene Weiler in the summer. Weiler is a pretty experienced coach having had posts in Switzerland, Japan, Egypt and also with Anderlecht in Belgium and Nurnberg in Germany.
As such, it is quite early to tell exactly how his Servette side will progress over the coming weeks and months but there seems to be a clear identity forming in the five games he has managed so far across the Champions League and Super League.
Alain Geiger did a great job in Geneva overall, but there always seemed to be an underlying frustration about his side’s pragmatism. He was successful with his methods, SFC did finish runners-up after all, but their 53 goals scored was only the fifth-highest in the league and lowest for a second-placed finisher since 2013. Weiler already appears to deploy a higher press and wants his team to take more risks with more players in the final third so there is a big onus on the midfield and can also leave spaces in that midfield for opponents to exploit.
So far, SFC are scoring goals, they’ve scored 9 goals in the first five games compared to just three last season, but they’ve also conceded in every game and have had to come from behind in both matches against Genk, the home draw with Zurich where they trailed 2-0, and also the late draw they salvaged on Saturday away to Stade Lausanne-Ouchy. That being said, they’ve shown versatility too.
The plans were no doubt thrown out the window with the red card so early against Genk in midweek and they responded to the setback, defended resolutely for the most part and still managed to score twice themselves to force extra-time and penalties.
As I mentioned, it is early days, but it seems that SFC will be an exciting team to watch this season and goals generally won’t be in short supply. It will be interesting to see how Weiler sets the team up at Ibrox but I don’t really expect them to park the bus like against Genk, that seemed more of a necessity than anything else given the circumstances.
This is an interesting situation as Servette will be missing some key players for this match.
Enzo Crivelli is suspended after his red card. He doesn’t score a lot of goals at all but he is a big, physical presence up front and is a handful for defences. Of course, he also has that unpredictable streak in him. For example, he punched a player last season and was banned for several games and he put his team in real jeopardy with a terrible challenge last weekend. Still, he’s an asset and will be missed.
David Douline is suspended. Alexis Antunes, who assisted in the second leg, is an injury doubt and missed the weekend game against Lausanne-Ouchy. Miroslav Stevanovic has also been injured, he is a key creative asset for SFC. In 21/22, he scored 4 and assisted 20 of Servette’s 50 goals, breaking the record for assists in a single season in the Super League. Last season, he scored 9 goals (his best goals tally in the top-flight) and assisted eight times. He will certainly be missed too, although he was also missing for both legs vs. Genk.
Chris Bedia is the main player to watch up front. He struck 12 goals last season and has so far scored 3 and assisted 1 in three league games and also scored away in Genk. Another striker that is a handful, good strength, he’s determined, works hard for the team and has decent finishing too.
I’d also mention Timothe Cognat, Steve Rouiller and Yoan Severin. Not players I’d necessarily always pick out, but they were massive in the tie against Genk and it is also a great story as they have been on the journey from the Challenge League to this point now. Cognat was involved in all three goals last week, Rouiller scored in the first leg and Severin was a key part of the defence and won the free-kick for the first equaliser in Belgium.
Another note on Severin is that he signed for SFC aged 21 having played only a handful of professional games with Zulte-Waregem after moving from Juventus’ youth side. He’s split Servette fan opinion at times but he has been patient, waited on his opportunity and excelled over the two legs.
Make no mistake about it, this will be a tough tie. Servette will no doubt be on a high after dumping Genk out last week. Then if they watched Rangers performance on Saturday, they probably fancy their chances.
The Rangers players must redeem themselves from the weekend. This is a huge tie and progression is a must to at least secure the parachute payment.
How are you feeling going into this game? What changes would you make from Saturday?