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Following successive domestic losses which have disrupted an otherwise impressive start to the season, FC Basel 1893 coach Thorsten Fink is "desperate" to get his team's campaign back on track against FC Sheriff in the first leg of their UEFA Champions League play-off tie.
After three straight league wins Basel have stuttered in recent weeks, losing 1-0 to AC Bellinzona before Saturday's 4-1 home defeat by pacesetters FC Luzern. The encounter with the Moldovan titleholders offers Bebbi the perfect chance to right those wrongs, an opportunity Fink is keen to grasp with both hands. "We're desperate to make up for the defeats in the Super League and get a good result for the second leg," said Fink, who could become the second coach in the club's history to lead Basel into the group stage following Christian Gross's achievements in 2002/03 and 2008/09.
In contrast no Moldovan club has ever qualified for the competition proper and Fink acknowledges that his team will therefore be expected to progress. "We are big favourites. If you want to make it to the Champions League, the best club competition in the world, you should be able to get past Sheriff," added Fink, who is unable to call upon injured striker Marco Streller.
In the midst of their tenth successive attempt to reach the group stage, Sheriff are without suspended midfielders Baco Nikolić and Fred after the pair were booked in the epic penalty shoot-out victory against NK Dinamo Zagreb in the third qualifying round second leg. However, Vazha Tarkhnishvili – the only man to have featured in all ten of the club's previous campaigns – is back after a ban, midfielder Florent Rouamba has returned from injury and Jymmy França is expected to be fit despite missing Saturday's goalless draw with FC Dacia Chisinau.
Andrei Sosnitski, the Sheriff coach, is eyeing an away goal to ease his side's task in the return next Tuesday. "We will study all the aspects of Basel's game, their strong and weak points, but we will be playing our own brand of football because only this can yield results," he explained. "We need to get a result in Switzerland and we can't afford to wait and see how Basel will start. Of course we would like to succeed away from home and score. In this competition your maximum is needed in every match, home or away."
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