European hopes high
Grasshoppers Zurich, St Gallen and Servette return to UEFA Cup action on Thursday, with all three Swiss teams in with a good chance of reaching the third round.
Grasshoppers in pole position
Grasshoppers, the defending Swiss champions, appear to have one foot in the door already, having won the first leg of their tie against Dutch side Twente Enschede 4-1.
Following the Zurich side’s unspectacular start to the domestic season, however, coach Hans-Peter Zaugg has been warning against complacency in the run-up to Thursday’s return match in Holland.
“We have to be on our guard and make sure we don’t go behind early on,” Zaugg insists. “Defensive safety is our highest priority.”
Decision time for St Gallen
St Gallen trainer Marcel Koller is not quite so clear about his team’s tactics ahead of Thursday’s home match against German side Freiburg. Having seen his team win 1-0 in Germany thanks to a dramatic late goal, Koller must decide whether that lead should be defended or extended.
“We will probably opt for a combined tactic,” Koller revealed on Tuesday, “mixing disciplined defending with determined attacks, when the opportunities present themselves.”
Defender Patrick Winkler believes that at least one of those attacks will have to pay off if St Gallen are to reach the third round for the first time in the club’s history.
“It would be fatal to play for a goal-less draw,” Winkler insists. “We must fight for a win and grab at least one goal to go through.”
Servette in form
Swiss Cup winners Servette have every reason to be confident ahead of their second leg match at home to Real Zaragoza, after putting the Spanish giants under plenty of pressure during their 0-0 away draw two weeks ago.
Despite a strong European pedigree, which has seen them lift both the UEFA Cup in 1964 and the European Cup Winners’ Cup in 1995, the current Zaragoza side are struggling to live up to the exploits of their predecessors.
Form also seems to favour the Genevan club who are currently second in the Swiss league after going five matches unbeaten. Thursday’s opponents on the other hand are languishing in 16th place in the Spanish table after losing their last three league matches.
With a sell-out crowd already guaranteed for Thursday’s showdown, Servette coach Lucien Favre is banking on the full support of the Geneva crowd.
“We will need the crowd’s support more than anything,” Favre insisted, “because we are going to have to enter this game cautiously and with plenty of patience. Counter-attacks are what give Zaragoza the greatest defensive difficulties.”
Zaragoza coach Txetxu Rojo has already come under fire following his team’s disappointing start to the season and knows that his job is likely to be on the line should the side fail once more in Geneva.
swissinfo with agencies
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