Fenerbahçe SK and PSV Eindhoven are both vying for qualification, but coaching changes and suspensions as much as knockout football are the talk of Istanbul.
Fenerbahçe SK and PSV Eindhoven are just one point apart in the race for qualification from UEFA Champions League Group G, but coaching changes and suspensions as much as possible knockout football have been the talk of Istanbul.
PSV will be under the caretaker charge of Jan Wouters following the departure of Ronald Koeman to Valencia CF, and were held 0-0 at home by the Turkish champions a fortnight ago, a result more favourable to their visitors who continued their unbeaten start in the section. Indeed, Fenerbahçe know that if they beat PSV and PFC CSKA Moskva in their remaining home games, they will advance from the group stage for the first time at the fifth attempt. However, two important players – defender Lugano and in-form forward Deivid – are suspended, something coach Zico knows will test his squad to the full.
"From the start we have tried to build a team that is able to overcome those kind of problems," the Brazilian said. "I am sure my other players will cover for Deivid and Lugano by putting in a great performance." With Mateja Kežman again unable to face his former club due to knee problems, Semih Şentürk could instead lead the line ahead of playmaker Alex, having scored the winner in the 2-1 weekend derby defeat of Beşiktaş JK.
Wouters steps up
PSV, by contrast, lost the Eredivisie lead with Saturday's 2-1 reverse at SC Heerenveen, but Zico does not think the Dutch title-holders will be any weaker for that result – a first loss in the league since April – or the change of coach. "Koeman leaving PSV could obviously affect the team," he said. "But all their players are professionals. Both teams are very strong and know the weaknesses of the other side very well."
Wouters, by his own admission, is a reluctant head coach, preferring to avoid the spotlight, but the former Netherlands midfielder was never going to shirk his duty once called upon by PSV. "Koeman went at a difficult time, for sure," Wouters said. "I am proud to coach PSV – maybe only for a short time."
Missing Eric Addo as he starts a four-game suspension, and Ibrahim Afellay, Manuel da Costa, John de Jong and Jason Culina through injury, Wouters plans a positive approach. "Whenever possible we will look to attack, as we have to score," he said. "A 1-1 draw or more would benefit us on head-to-head record. Against Heerenveen we were sloppy when we had the ball, we lost it so easily and had to keep chasing it. Here we have to be more careful and keep possession for longer."
The Şükrü Saraçoğlu Stadium will be packed and raucous on Wednesday night, a combination which clearly unsettled FC Internazionale Milano as they lost 1-0 here to Fenerbahçe on Matchday 1. Zico declared: "We have a huge advantage because our fans will be here to support us." Wouters had a contrasting view. "When I was a player, I was more motivated by this kind of atmosphere," he said. "It stimulated me to silence the crowd."