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Swiss football teams on European threshold

Can Christian Gross's England experience help Basel overcome Aston Villa?

(Keystone Archive)

Three Swiss football teams will be looking to enter onto the European stage this week as the final qualifying rounds for the continent's biggest tournaments get underway.

FC Basel are the first team in action. On Tuesday they are at home to English Premier League side Aston Villa in one of three Intertoto Cup 'finals'. The prize for the winner of the two-legged encounter will be a place in the first round proper of the UEFA Cup.

Already a month into the domestic season, the Swiss team will be hoping to have an advantage in terms of preparation against the English team, whose league programme doesn't start until August 18. However, Basel's start to the season has hardly been convincing with just four points from their opening five games.

Ginola reunion

Basel's manager Christian Gross has personal experience of English football after his brief spell three years ago in charge of London side Tottenham Hotspur. Tuesday's match will also offer Gross the chance to catch up with one of his former Tottenham players - flamboyant French midfielder David Ginola is now a member of the Aston Villa team.

Hakan Yakin is set to return to the Basel attack, although he is still suspended from Swiss league action. Yakin's goalscoring mission will not be easy, though, with Villa now fielding former Manchester United star and Champions League winner Peter Schmeichel between their goalposts.

Grasshoppers without Chapuisat

On Wednesday, Swiss champions Grasshoppers Zurich begin their European campaign with a tough encounter against FC Porto in the final qualifying round for the Champions League. The Zurich club will be without injured striker Stéphane Chapuisat for their opening away leg against the former European champions.

On Thursday, St Gallen are away to Macedonian side FK Pelister in the first leg of the final qualifying round for the UEFA Cup. Like Basel, St Gallen are looking to bounce back from a miserable start to the season which has seen the former Swiss champions win just one of their opening six matches.

swissinfo with agencies

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