Basel face supreme test against Liverpool
Swiss football champions FC Basel are looking to make history on Tuesday when they take on Liverpool in a crucial European Champions League encounter.
A win or a draw for the Swiss underdogs at St Jakob's Park would see the home side go through to the final 16 - the first time ever for a Swiss team in the modern competition.
Originally seen as rank outsiders for a place in the second round, Basel are going into Tuesday's game with a one-point lead over their illustrious English opponents.
Having already held Liverpool to a 1-1 draw in England, Christian Gross's side have now "only" repeat that performance to guarantee their place in round two of the continent's most prestigious, and most lucrative, club competition.
Basel's progress through the tournament's qualifying stages and first round proper is already estimated to have grossed the Swiss club some SFr12 million - an amount which could well be doubled if the team can upset Liverpool on Tuesday.
This would be a huge gain for a club whose annual budget currently stretches to just SFr30 million, compared to Liverpool's SFr240 million.
The match is particularly important for Gross, who twice came agonisingly close to similar feats in the late 1990s as manager of Grasshoppers Zurich. His latest exploits with Basel have seen the former Tottenham coach hailed as a national hero.
"For me, it's comparable to the Grasshoppers' match against Ajax six years ago," Gross told the "SonntagsZeitung" newspaper, "We only needed a point to reach the quarter-finals of the Champions League and Ajax were a world-class team."
After coming away from that game empty-handed, following a 1-0 defeat, Gross is hoping that history won't now repeat itself. The Basel trainer and his players are unlikely to underestimate Liverpool, though.
The first meeting in England may have ended in a draw, but there was little doubt as to whose performance was the stronger - Liverpool managed 16 shots on goal that night, striking the woodwork three times, while Basel only troubled the Liverpool keeper twice.
Liverpool rank among the most legendary clubs in Europe, although their most recent European Championship title dates back to 1984.
As the current leaders of the English premiership, Gérard Houllier's men have been in strong form recently. Any illusions of invincibility were shattered at the weekend, however, when Liverpool suffered a surprise 1-0 defeat to Middlesbrough - their first league defeat of the season.
Despite the scale of the task, Gross seems to be relishing the prospect Tuesday's match just as much as the 30,000 fans who are set to pack the stadium. It will be "the game of games", he predicts.
swissinfo, Isobel Johnson
Basel were seen as rank outsiders for a place in the second round.
They are heading into Tuesday's game with a one-point lead over Liverpool.
Basel's progress is already estimated to have grossed the Swiss club some SFr12 million.
Their annual budget is currently just SFr30 million, compared to Liverpool's SFr240 million.
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