Fenerbahce host Arsenal FC in the first leg of the Champions League qualification round. We bring you the detailed preview of this crucial match for both these sides.
Arsenal will face Fenerbahce at Istanbul tonight in the first leg of their Champions League qualifiers match. This could possibly be the most important game for the Gunners this season and the outcome could have a huge ramification on their immediate as well as their long term future.
After a disappointing summer, which started with a lot of unfulfilled promises from the board and the manager, things got worse as Arsenal suffered a humiliating defeat to Aston Villa at home. Their lack of transfer activity has left the squad in dire straits and it is almost a miracle that Wenger will be able to field a starting eleven of first team players given the number of injuries the players have picked up recently and in the match against Villa. The fans are up in arms and nearly everyone is questioning Arsene Wenger’s future at the club. The players are suffering from lack of confidence and they will need to display great mental strength in order to sail past Fenerbahce tonight. A win at the Şükrü Saracoğlu Stadium tonight can go a long way in restoring the club’s pride and players’ self-belief. Arsenal need the win tonight, not only to qualify for the group stages for a record 16th season in a row, but to also help the club attract players in the remaining period of the transfer window. Lack of Champions League football will make it difficult for the club to sign their transfer targets.
Fenerbahce won’t make it easy for them though. The hostile atmosphere at their home ground is renowned across the footballing world. But perhaps the fact that these Arsenal players won’t be playing at home, in front of their own fans in current scenario, might help them play with less pressure and expectations.
Fenerbahce have been active in the transfer market this summer, but like Arsenal, they are off to a poor start in the Super Lig. In fact similar to Arsenal’s opening game, Fenerbahce lost the match after initially taking the lead. But the Turkish club are facing much serious issues than Arsenal off the field. Even if they manage to win this tie over their rivals, they could be without European football next season as their participation in the competition depends on the ruling from the Court of Arbitration for Sport regarding accusations of match-fixing.
After the game against Aston Villa reports suggested that along with Alex Oxlade Chamberlain, Gibbs and Sagna, Wilshere, Rosicky and Ramsey have also picked up minor injuries. The fans must have feared the worse as the Gunners already had a thin squad. But luckily for them, Ramsey, Rosicky and Wilshere are all fit for this match. In fact Gibbs is also sure to start this game, and Sagna is expected to undergo a late fitness test. Thomas Vermaelen, Mikel Arteta and Alex Oxlade Chamberlain remain their only long term injury concerns at the moment, while Monreal is close to a return as well.
Two changes are expected to the starting eleven that was field against Aston Villa. Cazorla or Podolski will replace Chamberlain on the left wing, while Jenkinson is likely to start ahead of Sagna. Arsene Wenger is likely field Podolski in this match, as there are question marks over Cazorla’s match fitness at the moment. Wenger is unlikely to risk any further injuries and might go ahead with the German international, who came on late in their last game.
Expected Starting Line-Up (4-2-3-1) – Szczesny (GK); Jenkinson, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Gibbs; Ramsey, Wilshere; Walcott, Rosicky, Podolski; Giroud;
Gokhan Gonul is the only long term injury concern for Ersun Yanal at the moment. There are also concerns about the fitness of former Liverpool midfielder Raul Meireles and Mehmet Topal, but the Portuguese international is expected to start in Yanal’s three-man midfield.
Yanal is expected to make four changes to the starting eleven that was fielded in the 3-2 defeat at Konyaspor. Volkan Demirel will return in goal in place of Fehmi Mert Gonuk, who started in the weekend. Experienced defender Bruno Alves and Michal Kadlec will return in defense and form the back-four along with Joseph Yobo and Mehmet Topuz. Cristian will be replaced by Raul Meireles in the center of midfield.
Expected Starting Line-Up (4-3-3) – Demirel (GK); Topuz, Yobo, Alves, Kadlec; Emre, Meireles, Potuk; Kuyt, Emenike, Sow;
Fenerbahce 1-1 Arsenal
Both the sides are under tremendous pressure to perform. Historically Arsenal have provided their best performances when they have had their backs against the wall, but one must not count out the hostile environment they will be playing in. This Turkish home support does make a huge difference. Both the teams will be nervous and it will reflect on the game, which is not expected to be a free flowing match. But the Gunners will snatch a draw from this game along with a crucial away goal.