Despite holding a 1-0 lead going into the second leg, FC Basel remain underdogs to progress into the Champions League quarter-finals at the expense of German giants Bayern Munich.
But the Swiss league leaders advantage, albeit slender, is made all the better by the fact they didn’t concede an often priceless away goal. Munich know if they concede at their fortress Allianz Arena, they must then score three times to go through.
And it is entirely plausible that Heiko Vogel’s Basel will score. They hit five goals in two games against Premier League champions Manchester United to knock them out in the group stages.
And Valentin Stocker’s 86th minute goal at St Jakob-Park proved they can breach Munich’s sturdy back-line. Quite simply, Basel keep on shocking.
In winger Xherdan Shaqiri – a player who will join Munich in the summer – they have an ace in the pack who can win games on his own. And where better for him to make an impression than in front of the fans who will soon sing his name?
Shaqiri should relish it, and would love nothing more than to inspire a memorable shock.
Of course, Basel are a far tougher prospect in front of their vociferous home fans, but their three goals in a draw at Old Trafford earlier in the campaign shows they also carry a real threat on their travels.
But Munich remain favourites owing to their superb home form, and the number of genuine world-class stars in their team. Their squad oozes talent, both going forward and in defence, and they are blessed with huge international experience.
The likely return of Bastian Schweinsteiger after injury will be a major boost for Jupp Heynckes’ side with his drive, range of passing and tactical awareness making it difficult for a counter-attacking side like Basel. At Old Trafford, where United employed a flat-four midfield, the home side were undone by the flexibility of the Swiss men’s attack.
The prolific Mario Gomez is enjoying arguable his best season in front of goal for Bayern, and at the back Daniel Van Buyten and Jerome Boateng are as solid as they come in the Champions League.
Should they be breached, German number one Manuel Neuer still stands in the way, and despite an inconsistent first season in Munich, he remains an outstanding prospect.
Supplying the ammunition for Gomez will be France ace Franck Ribery, Dutch destroyer Arjen Robben and German playmaker Toni Kroos. Ivica Olic, too, isn’t a bad alternative.
So to pass through, you would imagine Basel will need that away goal. They have the gall to go and get it, but then again, Munich have the talent to score three, four, even five goals on their home patch.
Individually they are far superior, but as a collective Basel work efficiently and without fear. They are under no pressure to deliver and that is a danger to Munich and their expectant home crowd.
With the final to be played at Allianz Arena too, that expectancy could yet prove too much.
Tags: Bayern Munich, Champion's League, FC Basel, Xherdan Shaqiri