Champions League

Sousa switches baffle Basel fans

2014-09-30 07:46
Paulo Sousa (Getty Images)
Paulo Sousa (Getty Images)

Berne - Paulo Sousa was an enigma to FC Basel fans when he was appointed as coach at the end of last season and, four months later, they are still fathoming what to make of the Portuguese and his endless tactical switches.

Incredibly, Sousa was selected after his Maccabi Tel Aviv side were twice knocked out of European competition by Basel last season, losing in the Champions League qualifying rounds and then the Europa League round of 32.

Basel, who host Liverpool in the Champions League on Wednesday, clearly saw enough to convince them that Sousa was the right man and, having established themselves as the dominant force in Swiss football under German and Swiss coaches, decided it was time for something new and different.

They may well have got more than they bargained for. Sousa has so far fielded a bewildering variety of formations, switching players around and leaving key players such as team captain Marco Streller on the bench for important games.

"For some players, it's unusual," midfielder Fabien Frei told Swiss television SRF. "But it has its good side. Every player knows that he has a chance of playing if he gives everything he has got in training.

"It's not right to say that we don't have as much self-belief, it's just a different situation."

Sousa's most controversial decision was to substitute Fabian Schaer after only 36 minutes during the 3-1 defeat at Grasshoppers earlier this month, leaving the Switzerland defender and club favourite humiliated and close to tears.

Schaer was clearly seen to ask "why me?" as he passed Sousa on his way to the bench.

"Sousa has managed to anger the Basel fans in a short time," said former Switzerland midfielder Hakan Yakin.

"I understand his frustration, but he must have his emotions under control," Sousa said of Schaer. "He is a fantastic boy. I hope this was a lesson for him."

PLAYING CAREER

Former international midfielder Sousa had the most illustrious playing career of the six Portuguese coaches in the Champions League group stage, but his coaching venture has been a mixed bag.

He began at Queen's Park Rangers in the English second tier but was sacked after only six months with the club claiming he had divulged sensitive information.

Sousa spent the 2009-10 season at Swansea City, once again in the Championship, just missing out on the playoffs, and left the club to be replaced by Liverpool's current coach Brendan Rodgers.

He then moved to Leicester City where he was fired after three months. That was followed by 18 months at Videoton in Hungary and finally one season at Maccabi Tel Aviv, where he won the Israeli league title at the first attempt.

Basel, domestic champions for the last five seasons, are in their familiar position at the top of the Swiss Super League, although they were held 1-1 at home by FC Thun on Saturday after conceding a last-minute equaliser.

But their Champions League campaign began disastrously with a 5-1 thrashing at Real Madrid in which 36-year-old defender Walter Samuel was badly exposed.

Basel, however, have an excellent recent record against Premier League opposition with recent wins against Manchester United, Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur.

They also pipped Liverpool to second place by a point when the two sides were last drawn in the same group, back in 2002-03, after both matches between them ended in draws.

Sousa could do with a similar upset on Wednesday as he battles to win over the fans.

Read more on:    liverpool  |  basel  |  champions league  |  soccer
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