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Sheriff set sights on Moldovan first

FC Sheriff bid to become the first club from Moldova to reach the UEFA Champions League group stage although FC Basel 1893 hope to make their competition experience count.

Basel's Behrang Safari (left) tangles with Aleksandr Erokhin in the first leg
Basel's Behrang Safari (left) tangles with Aleksandr Erokhin in the first leg ©AFP

FC Sheriff are hoping to make history for Moldovan football as they welcome FC Basel 1893 to Tiraspol for the concluding leg of their UEFA Champions League play-off round tie.

• No Moldovan club has ever reached the group stage, and this time last year Sheriff were beaten by Olympiacos FC at the same stage, losing 2-0 at home in the first leg and 1-0 in Greece.

• Their hopes of ending that record are still alive after the first leg, with Basel's Valentin Stocker heading the only goal in the 54th minute. Sheriff had Aleksandr Erokhin sent off late on but goalkeeper Vladislav Stoyanov saved a last-minute Benjamin Huggel penalty to keep his side in the tie.

• Sheriff started this season's campaign in the second qualifying round, a 3-1 home defeat of KS Dinamo Tirana proving enough for progress 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.

• Basel have reached the initial group stage twice in the last decade. In 2002/03 they went onto the second group stage after eliminating Liverpool FC and FC Spartak Moskva and ultimately only lost out to Juventus for a quarter-final place in a three-way head to head with RC Deportivo La Coruña.

• The Swiss side also reached the group stage in 2008/09 but that proved a chastening experience as they collected only one point from six outings – although that did come thanks to 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.

Match background
• While these sides had never met, and neither had faced a club from their opponents' country before the first leg, Swiss sides have taken on Moldovan teams on six previous occasions discounting this tie. Four of those 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 at home in the first leg by the same score, Dacia won 3-0 on penalties to progress.

• 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 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 win.

• Basel defender Samuel Inkoom featured for Ghana in a 1-0 win against Burkina Faso at this year's African Cup of Nations when Sheriff pair Benjamin Balima and Florent Rouamba both featured.