Fenerbahce will host Italian side Lazio in the first leg of the Europa League quarter-final tie at the Şükrü Saracoğlu Stadium in Turkey. Lazio manager, Vladimir Petković’s will reminisce of this stadium, the place where his former team BSC Young Boys defeated the Turkish side in the Europa League qualifying rounds back in 2010-11 season.
Fenerbahce are coming into this match on the back of a convincing 2-0 win last weekend over lowly Akhisar Belediye Genclik Ve Spor in the Super Lig. They are currently in second in the domestic league, just four points behind arch rivals Galatasaray. The Fener are on a good run of form and have lost just thrice in their last 20 games (in all competitions), which includes the 3-2 defeat at the hands of 1461 Trabzon in the cup.
In the last round they scraped past Viktoria Plzen courtesy of Salih Ucan’s strike in the first half of the second leg at home. They have been far from convincing in the knockout rounds so far and will need a great performance at home in the first leg to have any hope of beating Lazio in this tie.
Lazio on the other hand are the only club who are still unbeaten in the competition and are currently the top scorers in Europa League as well. But the Biancazzurri have struggled in the league off late and have lost six of their last nine matches in Serie A –which has dealt a heavy blow to their hopes of qualifying for the Champions League next season. Lazio are currently fifth in the table and are closely followed by Inter and Roma and if they don’t improve their form, they might as well find themselves out of Europe next season.
But Vladimir Petković’s side are coming into this match on the back of an important 2-1 win over Catania – albeit with a bit of luck. Their form in Europe has been outstanding though. The smashed five goals past Stuttgart over two legs in the last round – courtesy of an outstanding hattrick by Europa League’s top scorer Libor Kozak in the second leg. In fact they also scored five goals against a strong Mönchengladbach side in the knockout previous round.
Aykut Kocaman is expected to make some changes to the starting line-up that featured against Akhisar Belediye Genclik Ve Spor in their last league match. Yobo, Sahin and Gonul are expected to return to the starting eleven. Webo, who has been in good form off late, will start along with Moussa Sow, while Erkin is expected to drop to the bench. The former Liverpool duo of Dirk Kuyt and Raul Meireles will start as well, while former Chelsea man Miroslav Stoch makes it to the bench.
Probable Starting Line-up (4-3-3) : Demirel; Gonul, Irtegun, Yobo, Ziegler; Sahin, Topal, Meireles; Sow, Webo, Kuyt.
Vladimir Petković is expected to make just one change to the starting line-up that won against Catania last weekend. Europa League top scorer, Libor Kozak will start in place of Louis Saha, while Klose who has returned from his injury, will start from the bench.
Lazio will go in with a 4-1-4-1 formation considering the fact that they are playing away from home, which means Ledesma, who was impressive against Catania, will continue to keep Ederson on the bench. Petkovic will be skeptical about making any drastic change to the shape of a winning combination, which again means Biava will partner Cana in the center of the defence.
Probable Starting Line-up (4-1-4-1) : Marchetti; Gonzalez, Cana, Biava, Radu; Ledesma; Candreva, Onazi, Hernanes, Lulic; Kozak.
Fenerbahce 1-1 Lazio
Lazio will start as the favorites to win this tie, especially in the second leg at home. But at Fenerbahce’s home ground which is famous for its hostile environment, Lazio will look to snatch a draw – especially considering the fact that the Italians haven’t been in the best of form off late. It will be a exciting encounter, but expect this to end in a stalemate.