Jesualdo Ferreira is confident his FC Porto side can finally end their long wait for a Matchday 1 victory when they begin their latest UEFA Champions League campaign against Fenerbahçe SK at the Estádio do Dragão.
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Jesualdo Ferreira is confident his FC Porto side can finally end their long wait for a Matchday 1 victory when they kick off their latest UEFA Champions League campaign against Fenerbahçe SK at the Estádio do Dragão.
The 2004 European champions are in the group stage for the sixth successive season yet have begun none of those campaigns with a win – indeed, their last opening-night victory came at Molde FK in 1999. Ferreira refuses to read too much into past travails, however, saying simply: "I can only talk about the two years I've been here, in which we did everything to win but haven't managed it. We hope that's going to change. The team has already been picked, they are well-prepared and they understand the responsibility they have."
The Portuguese titleholders go into the game against Fenerbahçe – quarter-finalists last term – after a relatively long period of inactivity. A free weekend in the Liga has left Porto without a first-team fixture since the 1-1 draw at SL Benfica on 30 August. "The break has been both good and bad," said Ferreira. "It's always difficult to build up a rhythm in this situation but we also have to protect the players, particularly those from clubs taking part in the Champions League and UEFA Cup."
While optimistic about Wednesday's encounter, the former SC Braga trainer believes the Turkish visitors are to be treated with caution despite their poor start to the Süper Lig season. "We can't judge them on their last few results. We know what they did last year in the Champions League. They have a strong team, with good players who are used to winning in high-level competitions," he said. Indeed, Ferreira reckons Fenerbahçe are significantly stronger for their summer spending, pointing to the acquisition of Daniel Güiza for a Turkish-record €14m as proof of their financial muscle. "They have greater means than us," he admitted. "For example, they have the top scorer in last season's Spanish league."
'Time on our side'
Fenerbahçe have a still more high-profile Spaniard than Güiza in their camp, with UEFA EURO 2008™-winning coach Luis Aragonés now at the helm, yet two surprising away defeats in the first three games of their domestic campaign have been a nasty shock. "We could have started better, but we have time on our side in the league," Aragonés said. "We'll see where we are in May." Aragonés turned 70 this summer and has seen more than enough in his long career to weather the storm, adding with a smile: "I have the experience not to worry too much."
The former Club Atlético de Madrid boss argues that trouble on the home front will be no hindrance to Fenerbahçe's bid to build on their European heroics of the last campaign, saying: "You cannot compare the league with the Champions League. They're two completely different competitions. We respect Porto a lot, but I'm worrying more about my own team than them. It's important to go on to the pitch concentrated on what we want to achieve."