Fenerbahçe SK will try to put a false start to the season behind them by living up to their 'fearsome' reputation against RSC Anderlecht in Istanbul.
Fenerbahçe SK will try to put a false start to the season behind them by living up to their 'fearsome' reputation against RSC Anderlecht in Istanbul on Wednesday.
The Turkish champions took 20,000 fans to the Atatürk Olympic Stadium for their opening Süper Lig game against promoted İstanbul BB SK on Friday, with all eyes on debutant Roberto Carlos. However, with captain Alex and Stephen Appiah injured, Zico's side looked slow and disjointed and suffered a 2-0 away defeat. Roberto Carlos apologised afterwards, saying: "We played badly but our supporters shouldn't worry: Fenerbahçe are still favourites to win the title again."
Even so, they must raise their game as the Belgian champions come calling. Uruguayan defender Diego Lugano is available after returning late following his Copa América exertions, yet Alex's absence will only deepen concerns over the form of strikers Mateja Kežman and Deivid. Zico is putting on a brave face though, saying: "If our team spirit returns, we will win. Everybody knows that Anderlecht are strong opponents and this game is very important for us. You will see. We won't be affected by Friday's result."
Fenerbahçe's teething troubles will be some relief to Anderlecht general manager Herman van Holsbeeck, who has admitted to using foul language after seeing the draw for the third qualifying round. "We were eager to avoid AEK Athens [FC], [FC] Spartak Moskva and Fenerbahçe so we had to swear a little when the draw was made," he said.
Midfielder Lucas Biglia and defender Nicolás Pareja travel to Istanbul despite nursing minor knocks, but coach Frank Vercauteren is unable to call on Walter Baseggio (back), Nicolás Frutos (heel) and the suspended Jelle Van Damme for the first leg of what is a must-win tie. "All our preparations for the new season have been geared towards these matches as our first goal is to reach the UEFA Champions League group stage," he said.
'Very close call'
Victories in the Belgian Super Cup and their opening two league games have buoyed the Brussels club, yet Van Holsbeeck remains realistic about their prospects. "Let's not get carried away," he said. "Fenerbahçe are as good as LOSC Lille [Métropole] and AEK who we met in the group stage last season. Over two matches we would have qualified against Lille on aggregate but not against AEK, so it will be a very close call."