By Svend Frandsen
FC Basel go into Tuesday's game against Juventus FC needing a miracle to reach the quarter-finals.
The Swiss side go into their final match of the second group stage campaign clinging on to the slenderest of hopes of reaching the UEFA Champions League's knockout stage. Their only chance of survival would come if they were to win 4-0 at Saint Jakob Park, or by five clear goals in the case of a Juventus away goal, and RC Deportivo La Coruña failed to win against Group D winners Manchester United FC. This would see Basel finish level on points with Juventus, but reach the quarter-finals by virtue of a superior head-to-head record.
However, if Basel and already-eliminated Depor both win then they would join Juventus on seven points and the Italian team would go through by virtue of their superior head-to-head results against those two teams. In games between the three, Juve would have taken seven points, Basel six and Depor four.
"The task seems very difficult but people should bear in mind that nobody expects anything from us and therefore my players can approach this match with a very relaxed attitude which, on occasion, inspires football players to be at their best," said Basel coach Christian Gross.
Swiss confidence has been boosted by a campaign which has seen them lose only one of their five home games in the Champions League, while their visitors have won only one of their last 21 away games. Basel - the first Swiss side ever to reach the group stages of the competition - may also welcome back Christian Giménez, Antonio Esposito, Ivan Ergic and Marco Zwyssig after they were forced to sit out Basel's 4-1 win at FC Thun with minor injuries.
Italian champions Juventus edged even closer to a place in the quarter-finals with Igor Tudor's late winner against Deportivo on Matchday 11 practically booking them a place in the last eight as Group D runners-up. However, coach Marcello Lippi is discouraging complacency in his players.
Respect for Basel
"Everybody knows what Basel accomplished in their matches against Liverpool [FC] and Manchester United and my players know they still need to have respect for them and to play well in order to reach the next stage," said the coach, whose side need only avoid a massive defeat to progress.
Edgar Davids is suspended for the game while Marco di Vaio and Antonio Conte will miss out through injury, giving Lippi the chance to give some of Juventus's squad players a run-out in Europe's premier club competition. More excitingly for the Italian side's supporters, the coach also suggested that Alessandro Del Piero may be ready to take to the pitch for the first time since recovering from a serious thigh injury.
Del Piero comeback
However, Lippi has insisted that it is unlikely that the striker will see a whole 90 minutes of action. "I will consider putting him on later in the match, not only for him to get match practice but because I think he might be able to contribute something to our game," said Lippi.
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