Are Basel Faltering?
Perhaps the best possible draw Rovers could have got when paired with F C Basle in Group E was to play the fixture at Ewood Park. If you thought Chelsea`s home form was impressive, you`d be amazed at how ruthless this Swiss side can be.
F C Basel has been faltering recently, struggling in the Swiss Super League (Axpo Super League). They are currently sixth in the top division of Swiss football, however, there are only ten teams participating in the league. At the weekend they were unceremoniously thrashed by a lowly Schaffhausen side 4-2.
Basel have become something of a recognised name in recent years, especially in England. This is largely in part due to their manager Christian Gross, the Manuel of English football for his inability to grasp the language or do anything successfully whilst briefly at Tottenham Hotspurs.
However, since he has been in charge of Basel he has led them on a fairy-tale success story that reached its zenith in the 2002 Champions League campaign. During that tournament they regularly faced a number of British sides. Basel brushed aside teams like Juventus, Celtic, Liverpool and Deportivo La Coruna.
Most recently they were seen pushing Middlesbrough all the way in a pulsating UEFA Cup affair.
They have won the Swiss top division eleven times and are the reigning champions. However, they are struggling this season, epitomised through their first home defeat in three and a half years (and you thought Chelsea were formidable at home!). They had gone 59 games at home unbeaten.
This phenomenal home form was the fulcrum to their successful rise. Their appearance in the 2002 Champions League marked only the second time a Swiss side had competed in the competition. They achieved this off the back of their double winning domestic season. It was a sign they had emerged as Grasshoppers Zurich`s leading contenders.
So what can we expect from Christian Gross`s side when they travel to Ewood Park?
Well they will arrive amidst a bout of inconsistency. However, their erratic form is not to be underestimated. They are a love them or hate them side that will beat you or crumble. Recently they haven`t travelled well, losing their last three away games in the league.
It is fair to say there will be goals when they play. They have only failed to score once this season and they are yet to have a 0-0 draw. In the first round, first leg of this seasons UEFA Cup they trounced Rabotniki 6-2, going onto finish 7-2 winners on aggregate.
They also posses the explosive talent of Mladen Petric. The former Grasshoppers Zurich forward recently scored four times in an hour for Croatia. He has already bagged nine goals from his first eight fixtures of the season and slotted in a brace in the thrashing of Rabotniki.
Other recognised names in their starting line-up include Delron Buckley who had a trial with Everton this summer before he transferred to Basle. Another recognised name is Koji Nakata, a Japanese defender/defensive midfielder who has often been compared to Junichi Inamoto. There will also be a chance for familiar faces to come up against each other when Rovers` Aussie duo competes against fellow Australian internationals, Mike Sterjovski and Scott Chipperfield.
It is certainly favourable for Rovers to play this fixture at home. They always say it is important to win your home games and this will be an occasion where the super blue and white halves (that is Rovers not Grasshoppers Zurich) will be expected to prosper.
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