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Basel back on the big stage

FC Basel 1893 begin their first UEFA Champions League campaign since reaching the second group stage in 2002/03 with the visit of Group C rivals and competition regulars FC Shakhtar Donetsk to St. Jakob-Park.

Basel's Ivan Ergić and Carlitos celebrate
Basel's Ivan Ergić and Carlitos celebrate ©Getty Images

FC Basel 1893 begin their first UEFA Champions League campaign since 2002/03 with the visit of Group C rivals FC Shakhtar Donetsk to St. Jakob-Park.

• Christian Gross's team reached the last 16 of the 2002/03 competition and the coach will not need telling the significance of a winning start against the Ukrainian champions, given Basel, Shakhtar and Sporting Clube de Portugal will all fancy their chances of a top-two finish in a section in which FC Barcelona start as outright favourites.

• Back in 2002/03 it was FC Spartak Moskva that Basel bettered in their opening game – a 2-0 home success – and they duly went on to finish second in their group behind Valencia CF.

• In the second group stage, they beat eventual runners-up Juventus 2-1 in their final game but, despite finishing level on points with the Italian club and RC Deportivo La Coruña, they were edged out on head-to-head record.

• For their part, Shakhtar are aiming to advance from the group stage for the first time and at the fifth attempt.

• This is the Ukrainian champions' third successive UEFA Champions League campaign and they will want to improve on last term's efforts. After winning their first two matches – at home to Celtic FC and away to SL Benfica – they then suffered four straight losses on their way to a bottom-placed finish.

• Basel secured their place in the group stage by winning qualifiers against Sweden's IFK Göteborg and Vitória SC of Portugal.

• Benjamin Huggel's goal gave the Swiss champions a 1-1 draw in Gothenburg in the first leg of their second qualifying round tie. Basel had to then come from behind in the return after IFK scored twice either side of another Huggel goal. That left Basel staring elimination in the face but after Scott Chipperfield equalised (70), Ivan Ergić struck twice in the closing minutes (83, 90+3) to secure a 4-2 win on the night and a 5-3 aggregate triumph.

• The identity of Basel's scorers was fitting given the trio of Huggel, Chipperfield and Ergić are all survivors of the club's last venture into the UEFA Champions League.

• Basel then got past Guimarães in the third qualifying round. After a goalless away draw, they made home advantage tell in the return, Eren Derdiyok hitting a 54th-minute winner after Valentin Stocker's eleventh-minute opener for the Swiss outfit had been cancelled out by a Fajardo penalty four minutes later.

• Last season, Basel won six and drew two of eight ties as they progressed from the UEFA Cup second qualifying round to the Round of 32, via the group stage. But their campaign then ended with home-and-away losses to Sporting Clube de Portugal in a 5-0 aggregate defeat.

• Prior to their 3-0 home loss to Sporting, Basel had gone 13 games unbeaten at home in Europe, a sequence (qualifying rounds included) that comprised eleven wins and two draws.

• Shakhtar defeated Croatia's NK Dinamo Zagreb 5-1 on aggregate in the third qualifying round. After goals from Darijo Srna (3) and Jadson (31) earned a 2-0 first-leg victory in Ukraine, Mircea Lucescu's team won in equally emphatic fashion in the return thanks to strikes from Brazilian trio Luiz Adriano (42), Brandão (59) and Willian (70).

• The team have met only once before in UEFA club competition, in a UEFA Intertoto Cup Group 7 game in June 1996 which finished in a 2-2 draw at Basel.

• Hakan Yakin's 79th-minute goal earned a draw for Basel that day after Shakhtar's Oleksandr Ostashov and Volodymyr Pyatenko had overturned the early lead given the hosts by Dario Zuffi. The draw did neither team any favours, with both failing to progress any further.

• While that was Basel's only previous encounter with Ukrainian opponents, Shakhtar have faced Swiss sides seven times in the past, collecting four wins. Their record in Switzerland is one win, one draw and two defeats from four previous visits, although those losses have come in their last two visits.

• As coach of Grasshopper-Club, Basel's Gross oversaw a 3-1 aggregate success against Ukrainian side FC Chornomorets Odesa in the first round of the 1994/95 UEFA Cup Winners' Cup.

• Shakhtar coach Mircea Lucescu is unlikely to remember fondly his first visit to Switzerland as a player; he was part of a Romania side beaten 7-1 by the Swiss in a UEFA European Championship preliminary round Group 6 tie in 1967.

• Lucescu fared better with the Galatasaray AŞ team he led to a 2-1 first-leg victory against FC St. Gallen in Switzerland, setting up a 4-3 aggregate win in the 2000/01 UEFA Champions League third qualifying round.

• The other Group C fixture pits FC Barcelona against Sporting Clube de Portugal.