UEFA Champions League: Basel primed for the upset, Inter looks to rally

UEFA Champions League: Basel primed for the upset, Inter looks to rally

European Soccer

UEFA Champions League: Basel primed for the upset, Inter looks to rally

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Basel getty

 

By JOHN BOSCHINI

FC Basel will look to write another chapter to their Cinderella story today when the plucky Swiss champions take a one-goal lead into the Allianz Arena to face Bayern Munich in the second leg of the UEFA Champions League Round of 16.

FC Basel is no stranger to playing the underdog. Back in the fall, it was all but assumed Manchester United would easily dispatch Basel on their way to the knockout stages, but goals from Marco Streller and Alexander Frei eliminated the 2011 finalists. It was much the same story three weeks ago when a late goal gave Basel a 1-0 win in the first leg.

Don't expect Bayern to exhibit the same complacency that was on display in Switzerland. Saturday's 7-1 thrashing of Hoffenheim was an emphatic statement on how dangerous Bayern can be when firing on all cylinders. Bayern do not have the luxury of an away goal so any score by Basel would force Bayern into scoring at least three times.

Inter Milan are in the midst of one of their worst Serie A campaigns in recent memory but are still grinding out results in Europe. Marseille arrives at the San Siro with a 1-0 lead after a late winner by Andre Ayew in the first leg. Neither team is likely to qualify for next season's Champions League via league position so there should be an air of desperation for both clubs.

Inter are in a similar position to Bayern in having to keep a clean sheet. Inter have kept only one clean sheet in the Champions League this season but should be able to keep a less-than-prolific Marseille offense at bay.

Here is a more detailed look ahead to both matchups, which are an hour later than normal due to Daylight Savings Time.

BAYERN MUNICH VS. FC BASEL

TV: Fox Soccer Plus, 3:45 p.m.

FIRST LEG: A late goal from Valentin Stocker gave FC Basel a 1-0 win in a game that was far more offensive than the final score would suggest. The home side twice hit the post while Basel goalkeeper Yans Sommer played magnificently by stopping a wicked strike from Philipp Lahm and forcing Franck Ribery and Mario Gomez into poor shots.

THE LOWDOWN: Confidence will not be an issue as Basel arrives in Munich expecting nothing less than victory. The visitors have yet to keep a clean sheet away from home in the Champions League but did manage to squeeze three by United at Old Trafford in September. Bayern Munich could be without Mario Gomez, Arjen Robben and Jerome Boateng due to injury and will rely heavily on star goalkeeper Manuel Neuer to keep Basel off the board. 

INTER MILAN VS. MARSEILLE

TV: Fox Soccer Channel, 3:45 p.m.

FIRST LEG: Marseille took the lead with the final kick of the game in what was a fairly tepid display from both teams in the first leg. The loss came in the middle of a nine-game winless streak for Inter which just ended over the weekend with a victory over Chievo Verona. Marseille controlled much of possession and had the majority of what few chances there were in the first leg.

THE LOWDOWN: The result of the second leg will largely depend on which Inter Milan team decides to show up. Will it be the rejuvenated and dangerous Inter side of Christmas or the disorganized and listless team of the last few weeks? Marseille's manager, Didier Deschamps, is under as much pressure as his opponent as the French side has slipped to eighth in Ligue 1. If Marseille can get on the board early, it's unlikely that Inter will have the character to score the requisite three goals. Conversely, if Inter can score an early goal, the Italians could roll to an easy victory.

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