Having missed out on the UEFA Europa League group stage three seasons running, Bursaspor begin their 2014/15 campaign at home to Georgian outfit FC Chikhura Sachkhere with something to prove.
The Marmara Region club are unlikely to be fazed, though, after defying the odds in 2009/10 to be crowned Turkish Super League champions. They mustered just a point from a UEFA Champions League section containing Manchester United FC, Valencia CF and Rangers FC the following season, yet the experience would serve them well.
Bursaspor have since become a household name in UEFA Europa League qualifying, twice succumbing in the play-offs before last term's third round qualifying defeat by Serbian side FK Vojvodina. Now they are ready to put that disappointment behind them under Şenol Güneş, an experienced coach whose Turkey team finished third at the 2002 FIFA World Cup.
Such is Bursaspor's desire to break Europe, Güneş is leaving nothing to chance ahead of tonight's second qualifying round opener. "We will face a team who are physically in better shape than us and play good flowing football. They stop the opposition playing and often use the long ball," he said. "Sometimes they make mistakes, however, and this is something we can capitalise on from both flanks. It will not be an easy game – it's still pre-season and we could struggle. Patience is the key."
Bursapor's ranks have been swelled by the signing of AC Milan's Malian midfielder Bakaye Traoré and Turkish international forward Aydın Karabulut on a free transfer from Sivasspor. Versatile defender Ozan Tufan, 19, has also emerged as an exciting talent, being called up to the Turkey squad by Fatih Terim for this summer's friendlies against the Republic of Ireland, Honduras and the United States.
"To be honest I wasn't expecting it to go so well for me," said Ozan. "Now that I've made the senior team, I don't have any intention to stop; I must work harder to do better. I was told the coaches were satisfied with my performance and I felt confident playing in defensive midfield." As well as being honest and determined, Ozan has big ambitions, adding: "I have been here since childhood and I won't go anywhere before I'm a regular, but one day I'd like to play for Liverpool."
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