Exclusive: FC Basel and Switzerland midfielder Noah Okafor prepared for UEFA Europa League Round of 32 showdown against Cypriot champions Apoel Nicosia, eyes Euro 2020 selection

FC Basel presently stands second in the Swiss Super League, two points adrift of current league leaders and reigning Swiss Super League champions BSC Young Boys, having registered 36 points from 18 league encounters in the 2019/2020 Swiss Super League campaign.

FC Basel currently boasts the best defensive record in the Swiss Super League having conceded 17 goals; fifth place Servette meanwhile presently holds the second best defensive record in the Swiss Super League having conceded 18.

Furthermore, FC Basel, who finished second in the Swiss Super League last season and qualified for this season’s UEFA Champions League qualifying phase before moving to the UEFA Europa League via losing 5-2 on aggregate to Austrian Football Bundesliga club LASK Linz, seeks its first Swiss Super League title since the 2016/2017 season under 59-year-old, Marcel Koller, a man who has been at the helm at FC Basel since August 2018; Koller’s previous managerial role was with the Austria national team.

FC Basel finished second place in the Swiss Super League in the previous two seasons. Moreover, top goalscorer from the previous two campaigns, Albian Ajeti, was sold to English Premier League club West Ham United during the summer transfer window. However, outside of UEFA Europa League action, the Swiss giants remain in firm contention for a potential domestic double triumph this season.

Elsewhere, FC Basel, who have won the Swiss Cup four times since 2009/2010 season, have also finished as runners-up three times in the competition since 2009/2010 also. FC Basel, who successfully won eight Swiss Super League titles in a row from 2009/2010 to the 2016/17 season, seeks to close BSC Young Boys’ lead at the top this season with the first half of the Swiss Super League officially completed.

FC Basel furthermore placed first in Group C in the UEFA Europa League this season having won four games from six group fixtures. La Liga side Getafe finished second in Group C of the UEFA Europa League this season courtesy of defeating Russian Premier League side FC Krasnodar 3-0 in their must-win decisive final group match at the Coliseum Alfonso Pérez in Madrid. FC Basel will face Cypriot First Division champions Apoel Nicosia in UEFA Europa League Round of 32.

FC Basel’s next seven encounters are against: BSC Young Boys (Away – January 25), FC St. Gallen (Home – February 1), FC Zürich (Away- February 8), FC Thun (Home – February 15), Apoel Nicosia (Away – February 20 – UEFA Europa League – Round of 32 – 1st leg), Servette (Home – February 22) and Apoel Nicosia (Home – February 27 – UEFA Europa League – Round of 32 – 2nd leg).

FOX Sports Radio 96.9FM/1340AM’s Dean Perretta briefly caught up with FC Basel and Switzerland midfielder, Noah Okafor, 19, to discuss the RotBlau’s recent form in both the Swiss Super League and UEFA Europa League, FC Basel’s defense of the Swiss Sup, coupled alongside the Swiss star touching on the Rossocrociati’s much-awaited Euro 2020 campaign next summer.

Dean Perretta: Noah, what are your thoughts on the current form and performances of FC Basel in the Swiss Super League?

Noah Okafor: I think we are doing very well. We are very good in all three competitions (Swiss Super League, Swiss Cup, UEFA Europa League) and played well, especially in contrast to last year. We are physically and mentally back where we intend to be. Of course there were also games that did not go well – due to the fact that we had a game every three days it was probably justifiable. I take a positive look at the first half of the season.

Dean Perretta: With regards to the UEFA Europa League, what are your opinions on FC Basel’s performances in the competition so far this term?

Noah Okafor: I think we exceeded expectations and our own resolutions in first place in the Europa League. This is good for our self-confidence, but also good for the whole club, the fans and the team. The first place (in the Europa League) is something you dream of and we really deserve it, which we are very proud of.

Dean Perretta: FC Basel are the reigning holders of the Swiss Cup. However, can you talk about the upcoming Swiss Cup quarter-final game against Swiss Challenge League club FC Laussane-Sport?

Noah Okafor: It will certainly be a difficult game. Lausanne is a strong opponent and we are playing away (at the Stade Olympique de la Pontaise).  But we really want to defend the title and will do everything we can to win this game.

Dean Perretta: How would you describe Marcel Koller’s tactical philosophy from a player’s perspective?

Noah Okafor: He is a very good coach who looks very well on the offensive as well as on the defensive. He demands that we be compact on the defensive and defend as a team. There should be hardly any space left for the opponent and the whole team is needed for this. In the forward movement, he asks us offensive players to look for the 1-to-1 game and to be as efficient as possible in the box. He sets us up very well for the opponents – as I said, defensive and offensive.

Dean Perretta: What would it ultimately mean to be selected and to play a role in Switzerland’s Euro 2020 campaign next summer?

Noah Okafor: That would of course be a dream. It is the goal of every player to be selected to represented for his country at some point (in a major tournament). I try to bring my performance to the club and concentrate on the club, then everything else will come of its own at some point. I am convinced of that.

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Dean Perretta

Dean Perretta is a 2x SEA Award-winning creative, Broadcast Journalist, Reporter, Courtside Analyst for BBC televised London Lions and Executive Producer who currently contributes to FOX Sports Radio, FourFourTwo Magazine and Muscle & Fitness Magazine.