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Basel beckon for Moldova's Sheriff

FC Basel 1893 have featured in the group stage twice recently but face a step into the unknown against a FC Sheriff side bidding to become Moldova's first representatives in the competition.

Basel's Alexander Frei has already enjoyed success against opponents from Moldova
Basel's Alexander Frei has already enjoyed success against opponents from Moldova ©Getty Images

Both FC Basel 1893 and FC Sheriff are taking a step into the unknown when the teams meet at St. Jakob-Park for the first leg of their UEFA Champions League play-off round tie.

• While no Moldovan club has ever reached the group stage, Basel have achieved that feat twice. In 2002/03 they qualified for the second group stage after eliminating Liverpool FC and FC Spartak Moskva, and finished third after a three-way tie with Juventus and bottom side RC Deportivo La Coruña, with places determined by head-to-head record.

• The Swiss side also reached the 2008/09 group stage but collected only one point from six outings – a 1-1 draw away to eventual champions FC Barcelona on Matchday 4.

• This time around Basel accounted for Hungary's Debreceni VSC – who participated in last season's group stage – in the third qualifying round, winning 2-0 in Budapest and 3-1 at home.

• Sheriff started their campaign in the second qualifying round, a 3-1 home victory over KS Dinamo Tirana proving enough despite a 1-0 second-leg loss in Albania. That set up a tie against NK Dinamo Zagreb in which both legs finished 1-1, Sheriff eventually prevailing 6-5 in a penalty shoot-out with substitute Artiom Haceaturov converting the winning kick.

• Last year the Moldovan champions were beaten by Olympiacos FC in the play-off round, losing 2-0 at home then 1-0 in Greece.

Match background
• These sides have never previously met and neither have faced clubs from their opponents' country before, but Swiss sides have taken on Moldovan teams on six previous occasions. Four resulted in Swiss victories, with FC Dacia Chisinau's 1-0 win at FC St. Gallen in the 2007 UEFA Intertoto Cup second round second leg Moldova's sole success. Having lost the home leg by the same score, Dacia won 3-0 on penalties to advance.

• Moldovan clubs have fallen at the final hurdle before the UEFA Champions League group stage on three previous occasions. Aside from Sheriff's exit at the hands of Olympiacos last year, FC Zimbru Chisinau reached the third qualifying round in 1999/2000 and 2000/01, losing to PSV Eindhoven (0-0 home, 0-2 away) and AC Sparta Praha (0-1 home, 0-1 away) respectively.

Team ties
• Alexander Frei scored Switzerland's first goal in a 2-0 FIFA World Cup qualifying win away to Moldova on 28 March 2009, a match in which Benjamin Huggel also played. The pair were also in action in the reverse fixture in Geneva four days later, Frei getting Switzerland's second in another 2-0 victory.

• Basel defender Samuel Inkoom played for Ghana in a 1-0 win against a Burkina Faso side featuring Sheriff pair Florent Rouamba and – as a substitute – Benjamin Balima at this year's African Cup of Nations.