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Man City shouldn't underestimate Champions League opponents Basel

2:00 AM GMT+8 12/12/2017
Pep Guardiola, Man City
The Premier League leaders avoided some of Europe's giants to be paired with the Swiss side in the last-16, but their opponents will be no pushovers

Already widely regarded as the best team in Europe, Manchester City would have been confident coming up against most of their potential opponents ahead of the draw for the Champions League last 16.

Pep Guardiola’s side may have closed the group stage with a defeat at Shakhtar Donetsk, ending a 20-game winning run, but that first defeat of the season in any competition will do little to hinder a side intent on winning everything this campaign.

Nothing is guaranteed in the Champions League though and big things were expected of City last term, only for them be eliminated at this stage by Monaco. Furthermore, City have only made it past this stage once before, when they made it to the semi-finals in 2015-16.

In avoiding Real Madrid, Bayern Munich and Juventus to be paired with Basel, the Premier League leaders will feel they have been handed a manageable tie, but Raphael Wicky’s side have shown they are no pushovers this term.

“We have to respect Basel and we have to be careful,” director of football Txiki Begiristain said. “We need to be ready to play them and do our best because obviously we want to go as far as we can in this competition.”

The Swiss side won four of their first round games to finish second behind Manchester United. Although Jose Mourinho’s side beat them in the first week, a 1-0 win in the reverse at St Jakob Park in November proved vital in them beating CSKA Moscow to second place.

If the win over the Premier League giants should be taken as a warning for City, who have never faced a Swiss side in the competition, then so should their respectable record against their other compatriots.

Basel have lost just four of the 14 games they have played against English teams, winning five so far.

Although two of those defeats were dealt by Arsenal last term, Basel look a different side from the one that went out at the group stage with just two points.

And Wicky will be hoping they will look more like the sides from previous exploits against those from the English top flight before Guardiola’s team visit them on February 13 for the first-leg.

In 2014-15, Basel made it to the second round at Liverpool’s expense after beating Jurgen Klopp’s side at home and earning a 1-1 draw at Anfield. The season prior, they missed out on a knockout spot despite beating group winners Chelsea twice. And in 2011-12, they upset United with a 3-3 draw at Old Trafford before winning 2-1 in Switzerland to get into the last-16 ahead of them.

That may have been revenge for Sir Alex Ferguson’s side beating them once and drawing in the second group stage in 2002-03, after Basel had drawn twice with Liverpool too.

Many see Guardiola’s side as a completely different machine than any of their predecessors in the English league, with Kevin De Bruyne, Sergio Aguero, Leroy Sane and Raheem Sterling leading their awesome performances, but Basel see no reason to fear.

After all, they have a dangerous asset in 20-year-old striker Dimitri Oberlin, who has impressed in the Champions League when allowed to run at defences and will be a key part of their counter attacks.

“We’re looking forward to playing Manchester City, we have nothing to lose against them and we can continue on our path, " Wicky told the club's website.

"For me Manchester City is the best team in the world right now. They have outstanding individuals in their ranks, and in the summer the team has been reinforced.

"I’m looking forward to the first knockout round between these clubs very positively and with great anticipation."

Basel have reason to be optimistic despite taking on one of the tournament favourites, so Man City shouldn’t get cocky.