FC Basel 1893 recovered from losing twice to Real Madrid CF, and a surprise defeat at PFC Ludogorets Razgrad, to take second spot in Group B at Liverpool FC's expense.
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The draw for UEFA Champions League Group B suggested Real Madrid CF and Liverpool FC were favourites to advance to the round of 16. Yet while Madrid duly won all six games, and the section, it was FC Basel 1893 who took the runners-up berth, the Swiss titleholders recovering from three losses to qualify with a famous performance at Anfield on matchday six.
Story so far
There were more than a few bumps along the way to the knockout stage for Basel. Few could have expected that, after a 5-1 hammering at Real Madrid on matchday one, Paulo Sousa's men would join the European champions in the last 16. Basel bounced back by beating Liverpool at St. Jakob-Park on 1 October.
A surprise reverse at Ludogorets followed, but again Basel retrieved the damage at home, overwhelming the Bulgarian title holders 4-0 on matchday four. Madrid then inflicted a third defeat, winning 1-0 in Switzerland on matchday five, yet Basel still went to Liverpool for their final fixture in second position. A point, and progress, was secured, the 1-1 draw thanks to Fabian Frei's first-half effort taking the Swiss outfit into the knockout rounds for the first time since 2011/12.
The mauling in Madrid might have set a sorry tone for the rest of the group phase for most teams, but Basel picked themselves up in their very next game. Fittingly, it was No9 Marco Streller who claimed the only goal as Liverpool were scalped in Switzerland and Basel's self-belief was restored.
Key player: Fabian Frei
With Streller injured between matchdays three and five, Frei took on both the captain's armband and the veteran striker's iconic stature. The 25-year-old midfielder contributed two assists in the matchday four victory over Ludogorets, though it was at Anfield in the final group fixture that Frei really proved his worth, getting the goal that earned a point and – with it – a UEFA Champions League last-16 slot.
Rising star: Breel Embolo
The teenage forward had to go to school at 8am the morning after scoring in the win against Ludogorets; the 17-year-old's Didier Drogba-esque goal suggests he will spend more time on the pitch than in the classroom in the future.
Embolo's strike against Ludogorets, at the age of 17 years and 263 days, makes him the sixth-youngest scorer in UEFA Champions League history.
"The first half was one of the best 45 minutes I ever saw from FC Basel away [from home]. It was fantastic."
Captain Streller on his side's valiant display at Liverpool
Next challenge: FC Porto
(Home 18 February, away 10 March)
The teams have never met before although Basel have played ten matches against Portuguese opponents, losing five and winning only two. They did, however, beat Sporting Clube de Portugal 3-0 in the 2012/13 UEFA Europa League group stage in their last encounter with a Liga club.