By Adrian Harte
Liverpool FC coach Gérard Houllier portrayed his side as underdogs on the eve of their crucial UEFA Champions League Group B match against FC Basel.
The English league leaders need to win to prevent Basel from becoming the first Swiss team to reach the second group stage of the competition and advance in their place.
Houllier, whose side were held to a 1-1 draw when the sides met at Anfield, said: "We're not the favourites. We're the outsiders - we're the underdogs. We know the score, we know we have to win to get through, so at least there is no ambiguity."
Houllier will have almost a full-strength squad to choose from, with Swiss international Stéphane Henchoz the only significant absentee. The injured defender was in action at the pre-match press conference, however.
Confidence with respect
He was eager to deny that his comments to a Swiss newspaper last week suggested that he thought Basel would be a pushover. "I said that I respect Basel but no way do we fear them, " he said. "I just said that if we have to come to Basel and win, that is what we will do. We have come here, we will give it our best shot and I think we will win. I never said that it would be easy or that they have no chance."
Houllier was also keen to give the hosts due respect. "It is going to be a difficult task," he said. "We know the value and worth of the opposition. They are a good side; they have proved it throughout the Champions League so far. We have a lot of respect and consideration of what Christian Gross's side have done so far."
Gross, facing his biggest match against English opposition since his spell as Tottenham Hotspur FC manager, was in bullish form. He said: "Tomorrow's match will be a night to remember. The team believes in itself and will try to express itself."
Playing to win
While admitting that playing for a draw could at times be problematic, Gross said: "I know no coach in the world who goes on to the pitch with the aim of earning a draw so we won't do that either. We are an offensive team. The mood in the team is great.
"We will play to our strengths and will try to score the opening goal. We will be positive and I am lucky to have two Argentinian forwards who can score in any situation." That front pairing of Julio Hernán Rossi and Christian Giménez will receive support from midfield from Hakan Yakin, as Gross is expected to retain the side that triumphed over FC Spartak Moskva last week.
Basel have not played since, spending the weekend at their training camp in Saigerhöhe, in the nearby Black Forest area of southern Germany. Ominously for Liverpool, Basel's last two such Black Forest sojourns were followed by significant wins: their 4-3 success against FC Lugano that clinched the league title and the Swiss Cup final victory over Grasshopper-Club.
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