President Gisela Oeri says "no money in the world can buy the emotion you experience in the UEFA Champions League", as her FC Basel 1893 side prepare to return to the group stage after a six-year absence.
For the fifth time, a Swiss team will compete in the group phase of Europe's premier club competition after Basel beat Vitória SC 2-1 on Wednesday to earn a Group C place alongside FC Barcelona, Sporting Clube de Portugal and FC Shakhtar Donetsk. "We have a solid team and no money in the world can buy the emotion you experience in the Champions League," beamed Oeri.
Once more, much credit must go to Christian Gross, who led Basel to a domestic double last season, taking his tally to four leagues and four cups since his appointment in 1999. "We produced a disciplined team performance and rode our luck," said Gross, who has now reached the group stage on four occasions, having done so twice as boss of Grasshopper-Club in 1995/96 and 1996/97.
Goals from 20-year-old Eren Derdiyok – his first since April – and Valentin Stocker, 19, opened Basel's door to the group stage against Guimarães. The result showed they could cope despite losing a number of senior players and having Marco Streller out injured. "We knew what it would be like in the Champions League and we wanted to be part of it at all costs," said midfielder Ivan Ergić.
While Ergić, Benjamin Huggel and Scott Chipperfield have played in the UEFA Champions League before, perhaps the real excitement will be experienced by the likes of defender David Abraham, 22, striker Derdiyok and midfielder Stocker. The third-mentioned has been described by Switzerland coach Ottmar Hitzfeld as "one of those players who can do something really special".
No major squad additions are being planned before the group stage kick-off at home to Shakhtar Donetsk on 16 September. Instead Gross will continue to rely on what he calls his side's "massive will to win". Such faith could yet move mountains.
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