Fenerbahçe take on Shakhtar Donetsk in the Champions League preliminary play-off first leg at the Şükrü Saracoğlu stadium.
The Yellow Canaries have had quite an eventful summer. The team is now under the stewardship of Vitor Pereira who replaced Ismail Kartal as manager.
Fenerbahçe appointed a foreign sporting director for the first time in club history – Giulliano Terraneo. The Italian has been instrumental in bringing about radical change. Nine players were sent packing including veteran Turkish international Emre Belözoğlu while eight players were brought in. Manchester United duo Luis Nani and Robin van Persie stole the limelight but the likes of Lille defender Simon Kjaer, Brazil international Josef de Souza, Turkish international Şener Özbayraklı and last seasons goal king Fernandao have all been pretty impressive coups.
The main problem the Istanbul giants have going into the tie is not having enough time to settle. Pereira has the unenviable task of trying to get his team to gel before he himself has even had a chance to fully adapt.
Fenerbahçe have had a few decent friendly results beating Olympiakos and Marseille but Shakhtar are already well into their league campaign and well seasoned in Champions League football. The main concern will be that Pereira’s side have yet to keep a clean sheet in any friendlies this season.
The Yellow Canaries did not play European football last season but what they lack in terms of team experience they make up in individual player experience. The likes of Nani and Raul Meireles have won the Champions League in the past, Robin van Persie has played finals at the highest level and Bruno Alves is no stranger to European football.
Fenerbahçe are likely to line-up with a side that looks like this:
Caner – Alves – Kjaer- Gönül
Diego – Souza – Topal – Nani
—— Sow – Fernandao ——
Van Persie is not match fit and only likely to feature in the second half. Nani is however, expected to start on the wings. Whether Pereira sticks with a 4-4-2 or reverts to the classic 4-3-3 the Yellow Canaries have been playing for the past few seasons remains a mystery.
The Navy Blues-Yellows have the momentum going into the tie. The 52,000 capacity Şükrü Saracoğlu has already been sold out and the raucous fans will make their presence felt. Fenerbahçe have a great home record and have only lost once – in the league – in the past two seasons. The team have the luxury of having a stadium located in the actual district of Fenerbahçe so opposition sides really feel the heat as they travel through the heart of Yellow Canaries turf to get the grounds.
Fenerbahçe face no easy task but with the 12th man behind them and spirits high a surprise could be on the cards.