Coach Aykut Kocaman spoke of his pride and honour at leading Fenerbahçe SK in their first UEFA competition semi-final and taking on opponents of the calibre of SL Benfica – but insisted the Turkish team's time has come.
"This game will be a new chapter in our history," said Kocaman. "After beating Plzeň to reach the quarter-finals I said there was little to choose between the last eight. It is the same now; it will come down to the teams that force the issue, force differences between them and their opponents. It is those sides that will reach the final."
Fenerbahçe's hopes of overhauling Galatasaray AŞ at the Turkish Super League summit were all but ended on Sunday when they lost 2-0 at Gençlerbirligi SK. Yet there is a sense that Thursday brings new opportunities. Kocaman underlined the fact that while the Istanbul club have won "plenty of domestic titles" – 18 championships in all – European honours have so far eluded them.
"Benfica are one step ahead of us when you look at their experience and recent success, but we have been here before," the 47-year-old added, perhaps with half an eye on the quarter-final triumph over S.S. Lazio. "We should be aggressive but retain our balance across the pitch – the supporters have to be patient too. We must not concede."
Kocaman, who will be shorn of the suspended Caner Erkin, expects Benfica to come on strong, especially early on. Indeed, opposite number Jorge Jesus said the Eagles have landed in Turkey with only one thing in mind: to play on the front foot.
"We always try to attack dangerously with our fast players," said Jesus, unable to call on suspended midfielder Enzo Peréz. "Our mentality is to try to score everywhere we go, even if we are playing away. Therefore, we won't change our outlook tomorrow.
"We are playing better at home than away. For this reason, if we make a mistake it will be tomorrow, because we are very strong at home – that is one of our biggest advantages. We always find a way to score at home. The important thing is, can we score here? We will play to score at least one goal."
While championing the positivity of the Portuguese Liga leaders, Jesus is also mindful of the quality Kocaman has at his disposal. "They are very dangerous in attack – we should be careful," he warned. "We all know Brazilian midfielder Cristian and the skill he possesses. [Dirk] Kuyt was at Liverpool before Fenerbahçe and is a well-known player, and Moussa Sow scored a lot of goals for Lille – he is a very powerful forward."
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