Fischer challenges Basel players to fill Embolo void

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Basel boss Urs Fischer has challenged his players to step up in this season's Champions League following the departure of some high-profile stars.

The Swiss Super League champions begin their Group A campaign against Bulgarian league title-holders Ludogorets at St Jakob Park on Tuesday, in a repeat of a group-stage showdown from two seasons ago, which Basel won 4-0.

Breel Embolo scored the opening goal in that game but signed for Schalke in June for a reported initial EUR20million fee, while experienced centre-back Walter Samuel and fan favourite Philipp Degen have retired to leave Basel light on players with Champions League pedigree for this season.

Fischer, however, wants some of his newer signings and younger talents to make names for themselves as they aim to get their campaign off to a winning start.

"We want to still be in Europe over the winter so every point is important," he said. "In Samuel, Embolo and Degen, we've lost three players with a great deal of experience, but this is an opportunity for somebody else.

"There's nothing better for the players than to be playing games like these, but I don't feel much different than I do before any other game. It's the same procedure to prepare the team, so it's nothing different, but of course all of the things going on around the place are different. In terms of my work, though, it's business as usual.

"It's extremely difficult to draw comparisons to last time, and whether the team is ready compared to how they were then. One way or another, tactical changes come in for the Champions League.

"Ludogorets have great potential going forward with some very quick players and they try to impose their game whether they are at home or away; whether they are playing against Real Madrid or FC Basel.

"But if we play our game over 90 minutes and keep our cool, then I believe that we are going to see a good performance. It would be important to get a good result in our first game as it helps preparing for the next games too."

Basel have won eight out of eight domestic matches this season, including a 3-1 victory over title rivals Grasshopper Zurich on Saturday, and have lost just three of their last 19 home games in UEFA competition.

Ludogorets, however, became the first Bulgarian side to win a group game when they secured a 1-0 victory over Basel in October 2014, and have suffered just one defeat so far this season - a 1-0 reverse away to Levski Sofia.