Manager Steve McClaren believes Middlesbrough FC need a "monumental performance" as they take on FC Basel 1893 looking to overturn a 2-0 deficit.
Manager Steve McClaren is calling for a "monumental performance" as Middlesbrough FC welcome FC Basel 1893 to the Riverside stadium looking to overturn a 2-0 first-leg deficit in the UEFA Cup quarter-finals.
Two goals in three minutes from Matías Delgado and David Degen have left the English Premiership side with a mountain to climb, but McClaren is confident his team can still scale the heights. "It's our biggest game of the season, probably the toughest and one in which we need a monumental performance to get through," he said. "What gives me great belief and hope that we can go through is that we can score goals. We conceded two quick goals over there, and we're capable of doing the same at home."
McClaren has first-choice central midfielders George Boateng and Lee Cattermole available after suspension, although the latter is struggling with an ankle problem, while Franck Queudrue is back in training after suffering a dead leg in Sunday's 1-0 win at Manchester City FC. Although Emanuel Pogatetz (head) and Gaizka Mendieta (foot) have both sustained season-ending injuries, that news is offset by the likely returns of captain Gareth Southgate and goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer from an ankle problem and tonsillitis respectively. McClaren feels their experience could be vital.
"We need all the experience and know-how we have, the luck on the night and everybody to be on top form," he said. "The two goals aside, I thought we were very comfortable over there, but it wasn't our night. We need to make sure it is our night on Thursday, we must put Basel under enormous pressure and stay in the game because it's not going to be won in the first 20 minutes. Patience and discipline are key. Basel are well-organised but it's really up to us. Turning this around would be the biggest achievement in this club's history, but we can do it."
Despite the two-goal cushion, Basel coach Christian Gross believes finding the net in England could be crucial, saying: "We want to go into the game with the idea that it's still 0-0 and we want to score. That is extremely important." The Swiss team have scored in their last four away ties in the UEFA Cup and, despite the continued absence of Murat Yakin and César Carignano, Gross is adamant they can prevail, adding: "Middlesbrough will be under a lot of pressure and have to go forward all the time."
With Basel bidding to become Switzerland's first semi-finalist in a UEFA club competition since Grasshopper-Club lost to SC Bastia in the 1977/78 UEFA Cup, Gross should field Eduardo as a lone forward in front of a four-man midfield. He expects his players to cope with whatever Middlesbrough throw at them. "Our team is stable," he said. "Even if things don't go well, we have the ability to keep our composure and continue to play our game."