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Basel face giants of European football

Manchester's David Beckham could be one of the stars making the trek to Basel

(Keystone)

Swiss football champions FC Basel have been drawn against Manchester United, Juventus and Deportivo La Coruña in the second round of the European Champions League.

The dream draw could see the likes of David Beckham, Ruud Van Nistelrooy and Alessandro Del Piero parading their talents at Basel's St Jakob stadium.

The opposition promises to be tough for Basel, but management remains optimistic the side can hold its own against some of Europe's best.

"We will be taking on prestigious clubs," said club president Werner Edelmann. "But I'm convinced we'll earn some points against them."

Team manager Oliver Kreutzer was less satisfied by the draw. "This group with Manchester is less interesting than the others, but it will allow us to show our true worth," he admitted.

Basel's biggest fan seemed less concerned about who her club was tackling.

"We will have three really good home games," said Gigi Oeri, the Swiss club's colourful majority shareholder. "I'm really looking forward to the games against Manchester and Juventus."

Basel's opening match will be at home against Manchester United on Tuesday November 26.

The team will start the group as clear underdogs, but having already held their own against Liverpool and Valencia, as well as knocking out Glasgow Celtic in the qualifying stage, none of their opponents should take the Swiss side lightly.

"They will inevitably be seen as the whipping boys of United's group, but minnows don't get through to the second phase of the Champions League," warned Manchester United's official website.

But English bookmakers still view Basel as the underdogs quoting the odds at 100 to 1 that the Swiss side actually win the championship - well behind the other 15 teams.

Juventus are also wary of the Swiss side. "Basel eliminated Liverpool," said Luciano Moggi, the general manager of the Italian team. "We don't know much about them, but they deserve the highest respect."

Profitable

Basel became the first Swiss team to qualify for the second round of Europe's premier club competition after their dramatic 3-3 draw against Liverpool on Tuesday.

The result meant Basel finished in second place in their group behind Spanish club Valencia.

The next stage of the competition - featuring 16 of the continent's top sides - is likely to be a profitable one for the Swiss club even if they lose all six of their matches.

Basel can look forward to a windfall of around SFr10 million ($6.85 million) in television revenue, ticket sales and competition funds.

This welcome boost to the club's coffers comes on top of the estimated SFr12 million earned during their exploits in the Champions League so far.

Basel will play its other home games, which are expected to sell out quickly, on February 19 against Juventus and March 18 against La Coruña. The Swiss will head to Italy on December 11, Spain on February 25 and England on March 12.

swissinfo


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