Lazio to provide Fenerbahçe's toughest test yet

Aykut Kocaman says that S.S. Lazio will be a "step up" for his Fenerbahçe SK side while the first leg in Istanbul is a trip down memory lane for two of the visiting party.

Aykut Kocaman is preparing his Fenerbahçe side for a stern test when Lazio visit
Aykut Kocaman is preparing his Fenerbahçe side for a stern test when Lazio visit ©Getty Images

As Fenerbahçe SK target a first-ever European semi-final, Aykut Kocaman knows his men will give everything against S.S. Lazio, whom the coach rates as the best team his side will have faced in the UEFA Europa League.

However, with home advantage first against the Italian outfit, Kocaman recognises that taking the upper hand to Rome will be crucial in overcoming a club that stylishly dispatched Bundesliga opposition in the last two rounds. "We want to take a lead into the second leg," said the Fenerbahçe boss. "We will play a very hard game, a very big game. This is a two-legged situation, not a league game. We want to compete but will be conscious that this is the first leg, not the deciding match in the tie."

The former Turkish international, who celebrates his 48th birthday the day after this quarter-final opener, is full of admiration for the Biancocelesti and their striker Miroslav Klose – although the competition's eight-goal top scorer Libor Kozák may keep him out of the side.

"We have had to play a number of very difficult and talented teams along the way, but Lazio are a step up from that," Kocaman said. "Klose is a very famous player. He will be one of the key men for Lazio, though the tie will be won by team work, not individuals. It will be breathless and will go to the last minute."

Meanwhile, Fenerbahçe defender Reto Ziegler accepts the Sarı Kanaryalar must be fully focused to have any chance of progress. "We are delighted to be involved at this stage and we want to go further," said the Swiss international. "We face a tough game, a balanced game. We have to concentrate and play well to get the victory."

For Lazio's Vladimir Petković, the Şükrü Saracoğlu should hold no surprises, with the coach having been in the opposition dugout in both a UEFA Champions League qualifier and the Turkish Super League. "I've faced Fenerbahçe here twice before, once with Young Boys and the other time with Samsunspor. They are much improved since then. They are one of the biggest names left in the draw but we want to dominate the game."

Another of the Lazio party with experience of visiting Fenerbahçe is former Galatasaray AŞ midfielder Lorik Cana. "This is a special moment for me because I became a Galatasaray fan as well as a player, but as a professional you have to put all emotions aside and do your job."