By Karolos Grohmann
Dec 10 (Reuters) - Schalke 04 will be eager to "light the fireworks" against Basel on Wednesday as they seek a spot in the Champions League knockout stage and offer troubled coach Jens Keller a much-needed respite.
Schalke lost 2-1 against Borussia Moenchengladbach in the Bundesliga on Saturday to drop 17 points behind leaders Bayern Munich.
The royal blues were also left with 10 men after captain Benedikt Hoewedes was sent off, piling more pressure on embattled Keller who has yet to win over their demanding fans.
A win against the Swiss side, however, and a spot in the round of 16 would quickly ease concerns and improve his odds of surviving at the club past the winter break.
"We must now come together as a team," said keeper Ralf Faehrmann, who has pushed past Timo Hildebrand to become the first choice in the past two weeks.
"Then we need to really light the fireworks in the stadium against Basel because we really want a spot in the knockout stage. We now need to work harder to get luck on our side."
Schalke, who beat Basel in Switzerland, are third in Group E on seven points, one behind the Swiss and two off leaders Chelsea and only a win will do if Schalke are to advance.
"We are well aware that only victory is good enough for us and that is something our opponents must feel from the very first minute of the game," said midfielder Kevin Prince Boateng.
The experienced Ghana international is again expected to lead the charge but will be without suspended rugged midfield partner Jermain Jones whose physical presence in this game would have been key.
Basel narrowly escaped defeat in the Swiss league on Saturday thanks to a last-gasp equaliser in their 1-1 draw against Grasshoppers.
They are still top of the Swiss Super League after 17 games and have lost only one game all season. This comes as no real surprise having won the championship four years in a row.
They are the only one of the five teams who fought their way through the qualifying rounds of the competition still in with a chance of reaching the last 16 after having gone unbeaten so far away from home.
Basel have no suspensions for Wednesday and midfielder Marcelo Diaz is their only major injury absence.
Schalke will have to watch out for Giovanni Sio, their Ivorian forward who has a habit of coming on late in the game and shaking things up, as he did against Chelsea.
He also scored a stoppage time equaliser in the 1-1 draw with Grasshoppers on Saturday. (Reporting by Karolos Grohmann, Additional reporting by Brian Homewood in Berne, editing by Pritha Sarkar)
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- Schalke 04
- Borussia Moenchengladbach
- Jens Keller