Fener plays Lokomotiv in tense Euro game
DHA PhotoIstanbul club Fenerbahçe hosts Lokomotiv Moscow today in a Europa League round of 32 match amid concerns off the pitch.
The game with the Russian club comes at a time of high tensions between the two countries, with UEFA taking strict measures and placing the game in the “high risk” category.
Relations between Turkey and Russia have been sour since Turkey shot down a Russian warplane last November near the Syrian border for violating its airspace. Russia denied any violation and retaliated by imposing economic sanctions and a de facto travel ban.
Fenerbahçe issued a written statement on Feb. 15, warning its supporters not to get involved in any non-football issues during the match.
In the statement, the club noted it was already on probation for fan behavior and had been handed a suspended ban from European competition by UEFA with the condition that such incidents do not occur again.
“Our team will face the risk of being banned from European competition in case of the slightest disciplinary or security violation in the Lokomotiv Moscow game,” read the statement.
The club warned its supporters “not to shout any slogans that have or resemble political content and not to bring any banner, flag etc. that can be deemed as such.”
Fenerbahçe also said no objects should be thrown on the field and there should be no pitch invasion, adding that fans without tickets will not be allowed near the stadium.
Things however seem to be better for Fenerbahçe on the football side.
The club, which leads the Spor Toto Super League ahead of Beşiktaş - which has two games in hand - beat 10-man Kasımpaşa 3-1 on Feb. 12. It has won eight of its last 10 games in the league, losing only once.
“We will play against a strong opponent, but we have all the tools to win this game,” Fenerbahçe’s Brazilian midfielder Josef de Souza Dias said.
“We will do our best to win at home and advance. We are sure that Fenerbahçe will be in the next round with the support of its fans.”
Fenerbahçe is also unbeaten in five European fixtures, with three draws, since starting the group stage with a 3-1 home loss to Molde, while Locomotive is undefeated in four European away games.
The Russian club faced Beşiktaş in the group stage and both games ended in 1-1 draws.
Baye Oumar Niasse scored four and set up three for Lokomotiv in the group stage, and will be a big miss at Fenerbahçe following his move to Everton in the winter transfer window.
“No one is irreplaceable,” said Lokomotiv coach Igor Cherevchenko. “We only lost one player. Our goals remain the same.”