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FC Internazionale Milano coach José Mourinho may be hoping to face Vitória SC in the UEFA Champions League group stage, but the Portuguese side must first overcome the significant barrier of an in-form FC Basel 1893 team.
Mourinho knows Guimarães coach Manuel Cajuda from his Portuguese Liga days, and announced his desire for a reunion on Monday. Cajuda light-heartedly retorted that if Mourinho meets 'Uncle' Manuel "he is going to lose", but the 57-year-old is acutely aware that his team must first negotiate the sizeable obstacle of Basel in the third qualifying round. "The players come into this important tie focused on victory," he said. "We have struggled to get here but now we are ready to rewrite the club's history. Our goal is to win and give the supporters another reason to celebrate."
The festivities in the north-western town of Guimaraes have barely died down since May when the side sealed third place in the Liga and a shot at booking a UEFA Champions League berth for the first time. It is a rise that certainly has not escaped Basel coach Christian Gross as he gears up for the opening leg at Estádio D. Afonso Henriques. "They are a technically very strong, and while they caused an upset last season in Portugal, it was well deserved," said the former Tottenham Hotspur FC manager. "We should be warned: they are a strong outfit. It will be important to be fully focused right from the first minute. We have to be compact as I am sure that it will be a tremendously intense match."
Basel are no strangers to the big stage, having taking the sizeable scalp of Juventus as they reached the second group stage of this competition in 2002/03. Few players remain from those heady days, but a new generation of youngsters are emerging, led by the likes of Valentin Stocker and Ivan Ergić. Neither were in action last weekend, rested alongside Jürgen Gjasula and Benjamin Huggel as Basel warmed up for their trip to Portugal by claiming a fourth win in five games, 4-0 against FC Vaduz to move second in the Swiss Super League. All four players are likely to feature against Guimarães, along with Eren Derdiyok who has recovered from stomach muscle problems.
Cajuda does have fitness concerns, however, as defender Sereno is a doubt with a left knee injury, though Luís Filipe and Nuno Assis are both likely to feature after joining from SL Benfica last week. "All the players want to impress and everybody wants to take part in this tremendous task," said the Guimarães coach. "I am convinced we are going to qualify for the next stage and the players are ready for it; they must enjoy the moment. I said the team would be stronger and we have improved since last season." Beat Basel and Guimarães could make Mourinho regret getting what he asked for.
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