Benfica 51 percent favorite to reach Europa League final: Fenerbahçe coach
Fenerbahçe's head coach Aykut Kocaman attends a press conference ahead of the UEFA Europa League Semifinall match between Fenerbahce and Benfica at Şükrü Saraçoğlu Stadium in Istanbul on April 24. AFP photoFenerbahçe’s coach Aykut Kocaman has avoided seeing his club as favorite a day ahead of the first European semifinal of its history against Portuguese giants Benfica. “They are 51 percent favorite, they are a step ahead of us with the works they have done during the last years,” Kocaman said during a press conference in Istanbul April 24.
“They have more experience and their faculty in modern football of playing together is a little bit better [than Fenerbahçe]. The team with higher willpower will get the upper hand. Benfica has high self-confidence, I think they will display a more aggressive [character] during the first part of the match,” he added.
After eliminating the Romans Lazio in the quarterfinals, Fenerbahçe is aiming to repeat the achievement of their archrivals Galatasaray who won the UEFA cup in 2000. The Yellow Canaries will face Benfica in the first leg of the Europa League semifinals on their home turf of Şükrü Saracoğlu, April 25.
Kocaman said that it was an honor to reach this stage of the competition, warning that their rivals of the day were more experienced when it came to dealing with the pressure of these games. “We will play with a club on an ascending trend, a top-flight club,” Kocaman said.
Fenerbahçe’s Brazilian midfielder Cristian Baroni said that the whole team was completely focused on the historic encounter. Though Benfica is strong, Fenerbahçe has players that can change the course of the game, Baroni added. “We are ready for winning,” he said.
Kuyt, Sow and Baroni main sources of worry for Benfica
Benfica coach Jorge Jesus said there were no clear favorites in the semifinal showdown. Jesus also said Fenerbahçe's versatile players like former Liverpool star Dirk Kuyt and Senegalese power forward Moussa Sow were their main cause for concern rather than the boiling atmosphere of the Şükrü Saraçoğlu Stadium. "Kuyt, Cristian Baroni and Sow are important players. We have to pay attention to Fenerbahçe's forwards. They also defend very well," Jesus said.
He added that Benfica performed better at home in Lisbon than away. "We give more open spaces away. But our aim is always to score. That's what we will try to do tomorrow [April 25]."