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FC Basel 1893 coach Christian Gross believes the odds are stacked against the Swiss side as they aim to end a French hoodoo in Wednesday's UEFA Cup Round of 32 tie at home to AS Monaco FC.
Basel were eliminated at this stage of last season's competition by LOSC Lille Métropole, and have since lost against RC Strasbourg in this term's group stage. However, the minimum requirement if the Swiss leaders are "to finally beat a team from France", says Gross, is "to play well in defence and not to concede the first goal".
Out of tune
Even that may not be enough, however. The visitors, Gross insists, will be the sharper outfit at St. Jakob-Park because Basel have played only one game – Sunday's 1-1 draw at FC Zürich – since the Swiss Football League resumed after its winter break. "We are clear outsiders against Monaco," Gross said. "They are fully in their rhythm while we have had just one match. They are also in the third-strongest league in Europe."
Compounding the difficulties for Gross is a squad shorn of Murat Yakin, César Carignano, Alexandre Quennoz, Djamel Mesbah and Scott Chipperfield through injury, and now also without January departures Julio Hernán Rossi and Patrick Müller. New boy Koji Nakata is ineligible, meanwhile.
Certainly, Monaco coach Francesco Guidolin has greater options at his disposal, with only midfielder Gerard López (achilles) and goalkeeper Flavio Roma (groin) sidelined. Akis Zikos and Olivier Kapo are both available after missing Saturday's 1-1 home draw against ES Troyes Aube Champagne, which left Monaco ninth in Ligue 1, for reasons of illness and tactics respectively. New signing Alexandre Licata is involved for the first time.
Captain Gaël Givet said: "We're at a low point at the moment, out of two domestic cup competitions and 12 points behind the second UEFA Champions League qualifying spot. So the UEFA Cup is a chance for us to bounce back – it is also our last opportunity of a trophy, and we won't give that up easily."
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