Turkey kick off their 2018 World Cup qualification campaign against Croatia at the Maksimir stadium.
The game will be played behind closed doors due to Croatia serving a stadium ban due to crowd disturbances.
Turkey and Croatia have met seven times, the most recent encounter was just a few months back in Euro 2016 which saw the Crescent-Stars lose 1-0 to a Luka Modric long range effort.
Croatia have beat Turkey three times with the other four games ending in draws including the infamous Euro 2008 clash which saw Fatih Terim’s side win on penalties after equalising in the last minute of extra time.
Turkey do not have the best defensive record against Croatia having conceded in four or their last five meetings.
The Crescent Stars will be without Galatasaray veteran Selcuk Inan and Barcelona star Arda Turan who have been dropped. Besiktas maestro Oguzhan Ozyakup and Manchester City youngster are both out due to injury. Unal has been in great form for on loan side Twente scoring three times and providing an assist in his first two games this season.
Terim has however, made sweeping changes to the side that faced Croatia last. The defence is likely to be comprised of Fenerbahçe full-backs Şener Özyakrakli and Hasan Ali Kaldırım while highly rated 19-year-old Freiburg defender Çağlar Sevinç is expected to accompany Galatasaray’s Serdar Aziz at centre-back.
Ozan Tufan was involved in the ‘hair’ incident which was blamed as being the reason behind Modric scoring. In hindsight it was very harsh to pin the blame on the 20-year-old midfielder and the goal had more to do with an excellent strike from the Real Madrid star and suspect goalkeeping from Volkan Babacan.
When Turkey’s Ozan Tufan fixed his hair instead of shutting down Luka Modric, who smashed in a winning volley. pic.twitter.com/CiHoxlPJS7
— radioactivist. (@debolaadebanjo) July 11, 2016
Tufan has kept his place in midfield and Mehmet Topal who played out of position as a defender could be back in the centre of the park. Inan, Turan and Ozyakup are all out of the squad. This could see Galatasaray’s Tolga Cigerci included. The inclusion of the hard-working midfielder could be the missing key Terim’s side were looking for. The 24-year-old provides the assiduousness Turkey will need in closing down the Croatia midfield and giving them less time on the ball that they enjoyed in the last encounter.
Up front Terim has Borussia Dortmund wonder-kid, Bayer star Hakan Calhanoglu, West Ham loanee Gokhan Tore, Mainz forward Yunus Malli and Besiktas striker Cenk Tosun to pick from. A Mor – Tosun – Calhanoglu trio looks most probable going into the game but it would not be a surprise to see Tore fill in for Calhanoglu either.
CROATIA – TURKEY
Referee: Szymon Marciniak
Kick-Off: 21:45 GMT
Croatia: Kalinic, Crsalijko, Corluka, Vida, Strinic, Badelj, Modric, Rakitic, Brozovic, Perisic, Mandzukic
Manager: Ante Cacic
Turkey: Volkan Babacan, Şener, Çağlar, Serdar Aziz, Hasan Ali, Mehmet Topal, Ozan, Tolga, Emre Mor, Hakan Çalhanoğlu, Cenk
Manager: Fatih Terim