Group G has proved extremely tight but on Matchday 5 the challenge for Fenerbahçe SK and FC Porto in Istanbul is clear as the home side seek a win to save their campaign and the visitors aim to secure a last-16 berth.
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UEFA Champions League Group G has proved extremely tight but on Matchday 5 the task for Fenerbahçe SK and FC Porto is clear.
Second-placed Porto know a win in Istanbul will take them through with a game to spare unless FC Dynamo Kyiv prevail away to Arsenal FC. Meanwhile, anything less than a victory would end Fenerbahçe's chances of anything but a UEFA Cup berth. Fenerbahçe coach Luis Aragonés is hoping the home support at the Sükrü Saraçoglu Stadium will help his side through.
"Porto are powerful opponents and we must respect them as we do all teams, but the thing we must do is win this match," Aragonés said. "We have no other thoughts than this. We will take advantage of playing at our own stadium, in front of our deeply passionate fans. My players are more determined when they have the support of the fans. Of course I would like Porto to underperform. From the moment we enter the pitch, we'll look for a goal."
Fenerbahçe have managed only three goals in their four group games, yet Aragonés points to their domestic form as a source for optimism. "We are only one goal behind Galatasaray [AŞ] who have scored 25 in the league," the former Spain boss said. "I think this statistic answers the criticism. Teams score and concede goals together. Therefore you cannot blame only the defenders when you let in goals, and you cannot just blame the strikers when you don't score goals."
Aragonés must make changes because of the suspensions of defender Lugano and midfielder Selçuk Şahin who were booked in the 0-0 draw at Arsenal on Matchday 4. Yasin Çakmak should come in for Lugano while Daniel Güiza is likely to be a lone frontrunner given Semih Şentürk's knee injury. Roberto Carlos's toe problem has Gökçek Vederson standing by. Deivid could make his first Group G appearance after breaking his shin in pre-season.
For the Portuguese champions, the sole injury concern is right-back Cristian Săpunaru, out with a thigh problem, meaning a start for Fucile in a 4-3-3 formation; Lisandro and Hulk lead the line with support from Cristián Rodríguez. "It's crucial to play attacking football," said coach Jesualdo Ferreira. "Unless you play this way, it isn't easy to score goals. But using just one strategy will not bring guaranteed success. Therefore I have a flexible game plan. We have different strategies for different situations."
Ferreira is not looking beyond this fixture despite the carrot of a last-16 spot. "It is too early to talk about the final or any other round before the Fenerbahçe match is played," he said. "I have spoken very little of late and I am waiting till after this game before I do. We are in second place which is a strong position, but it doesn't mean anything yet." Of the hosts, he added: "They have good and experienced players. While we have a young squad in comparison, we are used to playing top-level matches. Our aim is to get at least one point here. This is a winner-takes-all game."