BASEL, Switzerland (AFP) – Basel coach Paulo Sousa hopes his side will make a significant stride towards reaching the Champions League quarter-finals for the first time when they face two-time title winners Porto in their last 16 first leg clash on Wednesday in Basel.
Sousa, who spent four seasons as a player at Benfica and picked up 52 caps for Portugal during a glittering career as a defensive midfielder, needs to overturn a Basel record against Portuguese sides that stands at just two wins in ten matches at home.
He also admitted he was close to joining Porto during his playing career before a potential deal fell through.
“I was close to signing for FC Porto, it’s true,” he said.
“There was that possibility before and after Espanyol but in the latter case, I was even closer to returning to Benfica,” said Sousa who has also had coaching spells at Queens Park Rangers, Swansea and Leicester City.
“The only contact I had with the president of FC Porto was when I arrived at Juventus. He was in Italy to see how the ticketing worked at the club and in Italian football and then we had the opportunity to talk.
“He acknowledged the admiration he had for me and said he wanted to see me play at Porto, which made me very happy but it never happened.”
The Swiss champions have nothing to fear having knocked out Liverpool in the group stages this season while also ousting Manchester United in 2011 and defeating Chelsea home and away during the 2013-14 Champions League group campaign.
The team are in the knockout stages for just the third time, but ended up on the wrong end of a 7-1 aggregate bashing by Bayern Munich the last time in 2012, although they did reach the European Cup last eight in 1974 when they were knocked out by Celtic.
Porto coach Julen Lopetegui knows his team face a stiff challenge in the all-important first leg.
“This is a team that deserves its qualification for the knockout stages following a group in which they beat Liverpool,” said the Porto handler.
“This team gave Real Madrid a hard time in Switzerland and they have experience and also did very well last season, it’s a team packed with talent.
“We have to be at our best in terms of intensity and concentration if to have a chance to qualify.”