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Where Braga v Fenerbahçe could be won and lost

After watching Fenerbahçe beat Braga 1-0 last week, UEFA.com's Çetin Cem Yılmaz assesses the areas in which their UEFA Europa League round of 16 decider will be won and lost.

Fenerbahçe's Şener Özbayraklı tracking Braga's Rafa Silva
Fenerbahçe's Şener Özbayraklı tracking Braga's Rafa Silva ©AFP/Getty Images

The first leg was tight, and Braga's rematch against Fenerbahçe could be tighter still. Mehmet Topal's late, individual effort is all that separates the sides after their UEFA Europa League round of 16 opener – perhaps no surprise given that Fenerbahçe have kept five home clean sheets in Europe this season, and Braga have given little away on their travels. The Liga side are unbeaten at home in this season's competition, but have kept only one clean sheet – something that can only encourage their guests.

The coaches
Thursday's return will be a tactical battle between two Portuguese managers, Braga's Paulo Fonseca and Fenerbahçe's Vítor Pereira. Last week, Fonseca started with a 4-4-2 formation to close Fenerbahçe's main attacking routes, down the wings, and to crowd midfield. Pereira responded by adding Fernandão to the mix late in the game, and profited when runs from the Brazilian and strike partner Robin van Persie opened up space for Mehmet Topal to score the winner.

Watch highlights of the first leg
Watch highlights of the first leg

Goalkeepers
Volkan Demirel made only his second UEFA Europa League start this season for Fenerbahçe in the first leg – Fabiano being Pereira's usual European option – but justified the clamour for him to be first choice, maintaining focus and putting in a flawless performance. He will likely start again, hoping to extend on his five-game clean sheet. His opposite number Matheus is a bright young goalkeeper who has kept three clean sheets in the competition, and has great physical presence.

Defence
Almost unbeatable in the air, Simon Kjær and Bruno Alves have been Fenerbahçe's defensive rocks since the start of the season. Braga's towering duo of Ricardo Ferreira and André Pinto are similarly imposing, but on the ground, Van Persie found spaces between them to carve out chances. The support of Baiano and Marcelo Goiano helped keep Braga's defence tight, while at the other end, Caner Erkin was energetic but Şener Özbayraklı was tied up by Rafa Silva.

Braga assist-master Rafa Silva
Braga assist-master Rafa Silva©AFP/Getty Images

Midfield
Vítor Pereira is unlikely to change his midfield trio of Ozan Tufan, Souza and Mehmet Topal; that latter pair have contributed four goals in Fenerbahçe's last three European games. However, the great strength of the line is their ability to recover possession quickly – a crucial element to the Yellow Canaries' game.

For Braga, the absence of injured Luiz Carlos means either Mauro or Josué will be paired with Nikola Vukčević in the centre of midfield, while the mercurial Wilson Eduardo and Rafa Silva – joint-top of this season's UEFA Europa League assists rankings with four – provide creativity on the flanks. Out wide for Fenerbahçe, Nani has been going through a lean spell but remains a threat, while Volkan Şen has yet to hit full steam in European football.

Robin van Persie's luck will turn eventually
Robin van Persie's luck will turn eventually©Getty Images

Forward
Van Persie has not scored since the start of the group stage, but has never stopped trying; he has had 20 attempts on goal (nine on target, nine off target and two blocked) and his luck has to change soon. With Fernandão as a back-up option, Fenerbahçe have plenty of options, but Braga do not lack a threat either. Ahmed Hassan is a physical presence up front and Nikola Stojiljković has scored twice in two starts in the campaign.

 

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