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Swiss look to survive European winter

Grasshoppers will resume their battle with Leeds on Thursday Keystone

The hopes of Swiss football teams in Europe usually start to melt just as the winter snow starts to settle, but on Thursday two teams will be hoping to buck that trend.

Tough challenge for Grasshoppers

Almost 12 years have passed since Grasshoppers Zurich became the last Swiss club to stretch a European campaign into the New Year. But if the current Grasshoppers team are to come anywhere near emulating that 1990 run to the Cup Winners’ Cup quarter-finals, they will need to pull off a minor miracle on Thursday.

Trailing 2-1 from last month’s first leg match at home to English Premier League side Leeds, Hans-Peter Zaugg’s men must now achieve an unlikely away win over last season’s Champions League semi-finalists.

Swiss side in form

Having led 1-0 in the first leg before missing what proved to be a vital penalty, Grasshoppers will at least take comfort from their current form in the league. Unbeaten in five domestic matches, the Zurich club warmed up perfectly for Thursday’s match with a thrilling 5-4 win over Basel.

By way of contrast, Leeds have gone three league games without a win and will not be able to field their new SFr 25.9 million ($15.63 million) signing Robbie Fowler, who is cup-tied.

The English club will though be able to call upon Australian stars Harry Kewell and Mark Viduka, who both missed the match in Zurich to take part in Australia’s fruitless World Cup qualifier against Uruguay.

Servette to hurt Hertha?

Servette Geneva appear to have slightly more cause for confidence after holding German Bundesliga side Hertha Berlin to a 0-0 draw in Geneva last month.

However the team from the German capital are currently in great form at home, having won their last six matches in a row with their most recent league victory coming against reigning European champions Bayern Munich.

Servette goalkeeper Eric Pédat has some idea of what will be expected of him after watching Bayern’s defeat on Sunday.

“(Hertha) went berserk in the first five minutes of that match,” Pédat warned. “I’ve rarely seen a team apply so much pressure at the start of a match. But if we can hold out in the early stages we should get some openings.”

Forwards fit

Servette forwards Alex Frei, Goran Obradovic and Wilson Oruma are all expected to be available for the match although slight injuries have prevented all three from training normally.

Oruma, the only player to score for Servette in Europe this season, will be doubly motivated to do well.

The Nigerian player is yet to sign a new contract with the Genevan club and could decide to move on in June. As well as looking to impress potential future employers, Oruma is also keen to catch the eye of his country’s national coach ahead of the World Cup finals next summer.

“I have to get myself into the 40-strong squad for the next African Nations’ Cup,” Oruma reckons. “After that, there’s every chance of making it into the final 23 for the World Cup.”

swissinfo with agencies

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR