Here we are gents (and ladies!). About to start our round of 16 tie with Swiss team Basel. For many reasons, we sit eight large points back from Villareal. A gap which, though not insurmountable, seems increasingly unlikely to make up with limited games remaining. So, both for its own intrinsic glory as well as for any hopes of reaching the Champions League for next year, winning the Europa League may be our best shot (I actually don’t think it quite has reached that tipping point yet but… who knows, both routes are long shots). Anyway, the point is, lets m-er f-ing VAMOS cus now the games are getting tougher and the stakes higher.
Although Basel isn’t as big of a name as some of the others left in the tournament, they are a damn good team with lots of European experience and we should be very careful not to underestimate them. They have already beaten good teams this year like Fiorentina (won and tied). Last year they even made it out of the group stages in the Champions League. They will not be intimidated by playing us. Additionally, they are 14 points clear in their league, so they’re not exactly splitting their attention. And finally, they had their weekend match canceled during a snow storm so a) they’ll be totally fresh for our match and b) we can expect some pretty unpleasant playing conditions that could further play to their advantage.
Meanwhile, this team struggles juuuuuuuust slightly away from the Sanchez Pizjuan. Fortunately, despite being unable to win away, we do often manage to grind out ties, which wouldn’t be a terrible away result for a first leg. But wouldn’t it be amazing if we somehow pulled off the unlikely and exorcised our away demons? Yes but… It’s not gonna happen.
2-2 Gameiro and Vitolo.
Also, while you’re here and if you missed it, Chris somehow lined up an e-interview with the one and only Unai Emery. Post whatever questions you’d like us to ask him and we’ll post the replies as soon as we have them!