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When a side unbeaten in 14 home matches in UEFA club competition welcome a team seeking to end a run of 14 winless games in the UEFA Champions League, an obvious favourite emerges – not that captain Alex is taking anything for granted before Fenerbahçe SK's Group G meeting with FC Dynamo Kyiv in Istanbul.
Luis Aragonés's team made a disappointing start to their campaign at FC Porto a fortnight ago, quickly finding themselves two goals down and eventually losing 3-1. Yet at 'Fortress Sükrü Saraçoglu' they are a different proposition. Not since November 2005 have a side come away with anything more than a draw and in their last eight home games among Europe's élite, Fenerbahçe's visitors have taken home nothing. That record contrasts markedly with Dynamo Kyiv's, although Alex is wary of complacency. "It will be a very challenging match," warned the 31-year-old Brazilian international. "We started our Champions League campaign with a defeat so the importance of this fixture has increased. We want to make up for our loss to Porto."
Alex's reservations are in part explained by Fenerbahçe's poor start to the Süper Lig season, their 2-1 loss at Sivasspor on Friday night making it three defeats in three away games and leaving them languishing tenth in the table. "We have all been playing football for a long time so there is no negativity in our camp," said Alex, who played all 90 minutes at the weekend after "totally recovering" from a calf strain. "I am sure we can get through these difficult times pretty quickly and though we lost the first match [against Porto] there are five more games to play and 15 points to be won. However, at this stage, we just want to take one game at a time."
Volkan Babacan ready
Alex has added motivation as he is just two away from a century of goals for the club, while at the other end of his career at Fenerbahçe, keeper Volkan Babacan is poised to make his UEFA Champions League debut. The 20-year-old has shone in place of the suspended Volkan Demirel and could be retained against Dynamo. "It is up to the coach whether I play or not," said Volkan Babacan. "I regard myself as experienced enough and know that every game in this competition is difficult. If we had won the first match against Porto it would be a lot easier though." Not, perhaps, for the visitors.
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