The Europa League group stages kick off today and two Turkish Super League sides will be featuring; Beşiktaş and Fenerbahçe. The Black Eagles reached the quarter-finals in last years competition while Fenerbahçe who missed European football altogether last season reached the semi-final stages of the competition the last time they competed.
Fenerbahçe v Molde: Fenerbahçe Win
Fenerbahçe strengthened their side over the summer bringing in the likes of Robin van Persie and Luis Nani from Manchester United as well as Danish international Simon Kjaer, Brazil international Josef de Souza along with seven other names.
This is essentially a new Yellow Canaries side minus the full-backs, goalkeeper and holding midfielder Mehmet Topal. Former Europa League winner with Porto Vitor Pereira replaced Ismail Kartal as manager and has got his league campaign off to a decent start. The Istanbul giants are currently first in the Super League but Pereira has yet to decide on his strongest line-up or even his preferred formation.
The Portuguese manager is expected to take no chances and will field a full strength squad in-front of the home faithful but does have a number of missing players in defence. Bruno Alves and Kjaer are doubts which could force Topal to fill in alongside Czech international Kadlec. Twenty-year old Turkish international Ozan Tufan is likely to start alongside De Souza and Raul Meireles in central midfield. Alternatively Tufan may be deployed on the right of midfield with Nani on the other side and Van Persie playing in behind Fernandao upfront.
Molde qualified for the Europa League after elimination from the Champions League play-off stages as did Fenerbahçe. The Canaries undoubtedly have more individual quality in face the Fenerbahçe squad is worth €164,5m. More than Europa League group opponents Ajax €83m Celtic €43m and milyon Molde €16.5m combined. However, Molde are the more cohesive team having played longer together. The Istanbul giants do have a great record and despite not having time to fully gel together yet should have enough to win their opening game.
Skanderbeu v Beşiktaş: Beşiktaş Win
Beşiktaş are familiar with the Europa League having reached the quarter-finals last season. The backbone of the team is very much the same and the likes of Mario Gomez, Quaresma and Andres Beck have been brought in to strengthen a side that played some of the most aesthetically pleasing football in the Turkish league last season. Slaven Bilic has been replaced by former Turkish national team head coach Şenol Güneş but the attacking ethos remains – actually if anything this side is more gung ho than last season. Beşiktaş have scored the most goals in the league this season (12) and have been playing scintillating football at times.
Güneş is expected to make a few changes in midfield and to his attack with Necip Uysal replacing ex Arsenal youth Oğuzhan Özyakup who is out injured. In form winger Olcay Şahan is out suspended while central midfielders Tolgay Arslan and Veli Kavlak are injured. Gomez scored a brace for the Eagles last week but may be rested for Cenk Tosun who has also been in great form and has four goals already this season. Former Fulham winger Kerim Frei could be given a start on the left wing while Quaresma and Sosa could also be in the starting line-up.
The Istanbul giants will be unfamiliar with their Albanian opposition who are bound to draw a great reception from their home fans but Beşiktaş are in great form right now and should be able to return with all three points.