FC Basel will be looking to clinch their first Swiss league title in 22 years on Wednesday - and in record fast time.This content was published on April 24, 2002 - 08:58
A win in Bern's Neufeld stadium would see Basel become the first team since the introduction of the current league format to win the championship in April. The previous record was set by Grasshoppers Zurich, who wrapped up their 1996 title chase on May 4.
Switzerland's soon-to-be-scrapped league format was introduced in 1986. By halving the number of points garnered by teams during the winter, the system is designed to produce close finishes.
That hasn't been the case this season, though.
Ten points clear
After finishing the winter well clear of their nearest rivals, Basel have refused to give way during the springtime championship round. Five wins from their last five matches have now put Christian Gross's side ten points clear of second placed Lugano.
Victory over Bern's Young Boys on Wednesday would see the Basel supporters starting their celebrations with three matches to spare.
However, Young Boys coach Marco Schällibaum is hoping to put the champagne on ice - temporarily at least.
"We would rather see Basel partying after their home match (against St Gallen) this weekend," said Schällibaum - a former assistant trainer at Basel. "We need the points if we're to have a chance of qualifying for the UEFA Cup."
Schällibaum's team certainly have the capability to slow Basel's almost-inevitable march towards the title. The side from the Swiss capital have proven themselves to be particularly strong at home, winning four of this year's five matches at the Neufeld.
While the Neufeld has proved a successful base for Bern, the stadium is far from ideal for a championship party.
Serving as a temporary home for Young Boys while the club's Wankdorf stadium is rebuilt, the Neufeld is in fact an old-fashioned athletics ground where the majority of supporters still have to stand.
Given the amount of interest in Wednesday's match, the Bern club have increased the number of security officials and police officers at the game. Young Boys spokesman Stefan Stauffiger told swissinfo on Tuesday that club staff would be prepared for possible Basel celebrations.
"For events like this, you clearly have to exercise tolerance," Stauffiger said. "We won't have a fixed strategy in the event of any Basel supporters coming onto the pitch after the game, but will monitor the situation and give instructions to the security team accordingly."
by Mark Ledsom with agencies
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