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Basel gear up for "game of the year"

Manchester's star-studded lineup will start as the favourite against Basel

(Keystone)

FC Basel enter the second round of the European Champions League on Tuesday evening with a keenly anticipated opening match against English giants Manchester United.

It is the first encounter between the Swiss champions and the legendary English side, with Basel starting their group as clear underdogs.

Basel coach Christian Gross insisted his players had the utmost respect for United but would not be "overawed".

He described the game, which is being played at the club's St Jakob stadium, as the "absolute highlight of the year".

"It is almost impossible to arrange a friendly match with Manchester United. Now we have the chance to play the English side twice, and in the Champions League at that.

"If we win on Tuesday it will be a victory over one of the really big sides for once," said Gross.

Although it will be a tough challenge for the Swiss team, Basel can consider themselves lucky that United will be without some of their star players.

David Beckham, Gary Neville, Rio Ferdinand, Nicky Butt, Roy Keane and Laurent Blanc are all missing through injury.

Star-studded side

But United can still field a glittering side packed with potential match-winners.

Striker Ruud van Nistelrooy, who scored a hat-trick on Saturday, is expected to play, along with midfielders Paul Scholes, Juan Sebastian Veron and Ryan Giggs.

Manchester United coach Sir Alex Ferguson was careful not to downplay the Swiss threat.

"Basel are a very good team," said Ferguson. "They are unbeaten at home and have even beaten Glasgow Celtic. We watched the Celtic and Liverpool games and know what to expect."

United are going into the game buoyed by a 5-3 victory over Newcastle on Saturday.

"We scored five goals against Newcastle, that tells you we were attacking, which we've not been doing recently," Ferguson said. "That should fill us with confidence."

After the home game against Manchester, Basel can look forward to five more lucrative Champions League matches. In the second round they will also be playing Italian giants Juventus and Spain's Deportivo La Coruña.

The Swiss champions can expect to reap a windfall of around SFr10 million ($6.85 million) in television revenue, ticket sales and competition funds.

swissinfo

Key facts

Basel are up against Manchester United in their opening game in the second round of the Champions League.
It's the first time the two sides have faced one another.
The game is being played at Basel's St Jakob's stadium.
Other second round matches will see Basel take on Juventus and Deportivo La Coruña.
The Swiss champions are expected to net SFr10 million from television revenue, ticket sales and competition funds.

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