Tottenham face FC Basel, the Swiss Champions, in the quarter-final 1st leg match at White Hart Lane hoping to make the semi-finals of a competition they have won twice, been beaten finalists once and losing semi-finalists on one occasion in its previous guise as the UEFA Cup. Basel will provide strong opposition and can not be taken lightly.
Tottenham and Basel have never met previously in European competition but their Swiss opponents are seasoned campaigners in Europe as this is their 14th consecutive season in the Champions League or UEFA Cup/Europa League. Last season Basel won the League and Cup ‘double’ and reached the last 16 of the Champions League having finished second to Benfica in their group but ahead of Manchester United. Their 2 – 1 home win over United, having drawn 3 – 3 at Old Trafford, saw them progress at United’s expense. They defeated Bayern Munich in Switzerland in the 1st leg of the last 16 but lost 0 – 7 in Germany. They have been champions of the Swiss Super League on 6 occasions since its formation in 2003, including the past three years, as well as winning the Swiss Cup six times in the last eleven years. Former Tottenham manager, Christian Gross, was coach of Basel during the early years of that success, being in post for ten years from 1999.
This season Basel are again leading the title race in the 10-team League, 3 points ahead of Grasshopper Zurich. Their League record is:
P 25 W 15 D 7 L 3 For 47 Ag 20 Pts 52
Basel’s last match was on Monday when they won 4 – 0, away to lowly Luzern. Since the end of the mid-season break in February, Basel have won all but one of their 7 matches, drawing at home with second placed Grasshopper. They have also progressed to the semi-final of the Swiss Cup were they are due to meet FC Sion in a fortnight’s time.
The Swiss season runs in two periods, the first starting in mid-July which coincided with the commencement of Basel’s season in Europe in the 2nd Qualifying Round of Champions League. They have already played 16 European matches, more games than any other team, and are the only reigning domestic champions still in the Europa League.
Basel had a 5 – 0 aggregate win over Flora Tallinn from Estonia in that early Champions League Round. They then defeated Norwegian side Molde 2 – 1 on aggregate, drawing at home after a single goal success in Norway in the 1st leg. In the Play-off Round they lost both matches (3 – 1 on aggregate) to CFR Cluj from Romania who finished 3rd in Manchester United’s Champions League group. CFR Cluj were knocked out of the Europa League in the Round of 32 by Inter Milan who won both legs with an aggregate score of 5 – 0.
Basel then dropped down to the Group stages of the Europa League. They finished second to Genk of Belgium with 9 points. They opened with two draws away to Sporting Club de Portugal (formerly Sporting Lisbon) and at home to Genk. They then lost at Videoton from Hungary (1 – 2) but defeated them 1 – 0 in Basel. They defeated Sporting CP 3 – 0 in Switzerland and took a point in Belgium with a 1 – 1 to progress to the knock-out stages.
A 2 – 0 home win over Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk of the Ukraine set them up to reach the last 16 and they achieved that with a 1 – 1 draw in the second leg.
Round of 16
In the last Round they again recorded a 2 – 0 home win over Russian side, Zenit St. Petersburg. They scored twice in the last seven minutes, the goals coming from midfielder Diaz and a penalty from experienced Swiss international Alexander Frie, late in added time. In the 2nd leg, Zenit scored after 30 minutes and Basel had Diaz sent off for two yellow cards in four minutes before half-time. Ten-man Basel held out but needed a penalty save from goalkeeper Yann Sommer in the 86th minute to see them through 2 – 1 on aggregate.
Basel are managed by the former Swiss international defender, Murat Yakin, who was appointed last October. They are captained by Marco Streller who is an experienced Swiss international striker. He has scored 75 goals in 154 League appearances since joining the club in 2007. Alexander Frei has scored 72 League goals in 101 appearances, after moving from Borussia Dortmund in 2009 where he had spent six years. Their goalkeeper, Yann Sommer, is 24 years of age and progressed through the youth system to become first choice two seasons ago. He has made three international appearances for Switzerland.
Diaz will miss the match as will the Basel full backs, Park Joo Ho and Philipp Degen. Tottenham’s Kyle Walker who was booked in Tottenham’s defeat to Inter Milan will also be absent.
Basel have been the dominant team in Swiss football for a decade and more and have shown in past seasons that they are comfortable when stepping into European company. In this season’s Europa League they have been resilient and capable of getting a result under difficult circumstances as in the last round against Zenit St. Petersburg, scoring twice late on in their home game and holding on through the second half with ten men in Russia. They have not been prolific scorers in their European games but are well organised and tight defensively as their results show.
Tottenham will be without Jermain Defoe due to injury but with home advantage will want to make a quick start as they did against Inter because once again they can expect a testing game in Basel next week.
My thanks to fellow HotspurHQ writer, Alan Hill, for the headline!