Fenerbahçe SK coach Luis Aragonés insists his side are strong enough to see off FK Partizan and qualify for the UEFA Champions League group stage despite a growing injury list.
Defender Edu is the latest casualty after breaking a bone in his right foot, joining Deivid (foot), Gökçek Vederson (knee) and Tümer Metin (groin) on the sidelines. Strikers Semih Şentürk and Selçuk Şahin also miss out through injury while Burak Yılmaz is suspended. To compound matters, Fenerbahçe kicked off the Süper Lig season with defeat at Gaziantepspor on Saturday, yet Aragonés is confident his team will rise to the challenge against Partizan. "We have injured players but if their replacements do what is expected of them, there will be no problems," the Spaniard said. "I don't think losing the first match of the season will affect my players as I believe Champions League qualification is a completely different motivation."
Fenerbahçe were quarter-finalists last term, but have a fight on their hands against Partizan just to get back to the group stage. They recovered from two goals down to draw 2-2 in the Serbian capital a fortnight ago and Emre Belözoğlu expects another tight encounter at the Sükrü Saraçoglu Stadium on Wednesday. "It'll be a very hard match, but we have faith in our ability," said Emre, who could team up with Claudio Maldonado in central midfield. Yasin Çakmak or Can Arat will partner Lugano at centre-back in the absence of Edu, and Lugano added: "Concentration will be the key factor. We must minimise our mistakes."
Partizan coach Slaviša Jokanović has described the game as the most important of his "entire career", as Partizan attempt to return to the group stage for the first time since 2003/04. That year German Lothar Matthäus was in charge and still no Serbian coach has led a Serbian side into the UEFA Champions League proper. "The Champions League challenge is really great for us," Jokanović said.
"Our motivation is great, but I know that won't be enough. The Turkish club are favourites so we must play intelligently, with our heads and feet working in unison. We must pick our moments both to attack and to defend. Their supporters create a great atmosphere, but I believe my players can stay cool. Of course it will be a test but I'm optimistic." Jokanović has no injury concerns, welcoming midfielders Ljubomir Fejsa and Zoran Tošić back into the squad from the Olympics.
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