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Spartak weakened for Basel bow

Published: Monday 16 September 2002, 19.28CET
Champions League debutants FC Basel host understrength FC Spartak Moskva.

Tournament statistics

BaselSpartak Moskva

Goals scored17
Attempts on target67
Attempts off target70
Fouls committed165
Yellow cards11
Red cards0

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Published: Monday 16 September 2002, 19.28CET

Spartak weakened for Basel bow

Champions League debutants FC Basel host understrength FC Spartak Moskva.

By Pavle Gognidze

Swiss champions FC Basel will fancy their chances of a successful debut appearance in the UEFA Champions League when they entertain an FC Spartak Moskva side weakened by injuries to key players.

Titov injury
Captain Yegor Titov damaged knee ligaments on his comeback in the 1-1 draw with leaders FC Lokomotiv Moskva last Thursday, denting Spartak's spirits prior to their departure for Switzerland. The Russian international will be missing for at least six weeks and coach Oleg Romantsev said: "Titov is our captain, Russia's best player and the mastermind of our attacks."

Backbone missing
Titov is not the only notable absentee for the Group B encounter, with Ukraine defender Dmytro Parfionov also on the injured list. "Those two players are the backbone of the team," Romantsev said.

Romantsev defiant
Even without injuries, Spartak, like Basel, are considered underdogs in a group that includes Spanish champions Valencia CF and four-times European champions Liverpool FC.Yet Romantsev's side have vast European experience - this is their sixth season in the Champions League first group stage. "By the rating of the national leagues, Valencia and Liverpool are clear favourites," Romantsev said. "But I am sure the Swiss do not agree and we do not agree either."

'We should expect goals'
Romantsev, who said he would consider a draw "an acceptable result", expects an open match. "Our teams are somewhat alike," he explained. "We like to attack but our defence commits mistakes. I guess we should expect goals both ways tomorrow. The question is who is going to score more."

Respect for Spartak
If Spartak are understrength, there is no still chance of Basel coach Christian Gross taking them lightly. "According to UEFA statistics, they are in the top ten of the teams who have appeared in the UEFA Champions League," he said. "They are a compact team and they play very constructively."

'Good mood'
That said, there was a "good mood in the team" after they warmed up by beating FC Aarau 4-0 on Saturday. Gross said: "I hope we are going to play like that against Spartak." To this end the former Grasshopper-Club and Tottenham Hotspur FC coach is hoping his players will "show the same aggression and will" they did in overcoming Celtic FC on away goals in the third qualifying round.

Grasshopper veterans
If some nerves are inevitable on their Champions League debut, in Gross Basel have the man who led the only other Swiss side to play in this competition - Grasshopper in 1996/97. Veterans of that campaign include Marat Yakin, now Basel's captain, and goalkeeper Pascal Zuberbühler.

Home rule
Zuberbühler believes the home crowd in the Saint Jakob Park will help lift Basel. "We will not be cannon fodder," he said."The stadium in Basel is great, it is the biggest in Switzerland. I am hoping we can please the fans here, and achieve a positive result."

Injury list
Like Romantsev, Gross's preparations have not been helped by injuries. Marco Zwyssig, Scott Chipperfield and Ivan Ergic are all missing while Philip Degen is "doubtful". Basel may have to make some changes, but Spartak's losses could prove the more substantial.

Last updated: 18/09/02 20.41CET