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TURKEY > Fenerbahçe starts Euro cup at home

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Fenerbahçe hosts Group D favorite Marseille in the first game of its Europa League campaign. Fener is hopeful that it can go all the way in the secondary tournament in Europe, after being knocked out of the Champions League

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Fenerbahçe captain Alex de Souza (front) celebrates a goal with teammate Miroslav Stoch of Slovakia. Brazilian superstar Alex de Souza has regained his place in the Fenerbahçe squad after having a feud with coach Aykut Kocaman last month.

Fenerbahçe captain Alex de Souza (front) celebrates a goal with teammate Miroslav Stoch of Slovakia. Brazilian superstar Alex de Souza has regained his place in the Fenerbahçe squad after having a feud with coach Aykut Kocaman last month.

Fenerbahçe starts its Europa League campaign against Marseille tonight.

The Istanbul side is hosting its French opponent on the first match day in Group D.

AEL Limassol hosts Borussia Mönchengladbach in the other game in the group.

Fenerbahçe is hoping to make waves in the secondary club tournament in Europe after it was knocked out of the Champions League playoffs.

Last year’s Turkish league runner-up lost to Spartak Moscow 3-2 aggregate and missed out on a chance to return to the top-level competition in European football.

However, Fenerbahçe still approaches the Europa League with some determination and hopes that it can go a long way in the tournament.

“With a club like Fenerbahçe, you never run out of targets,” coach Aykut Kocaman has said after the Spartak defeat. “We believe we can go into further rounds in the Europa League.”

Fenerbahçe, which had made important signings such as Dutch forward Dirk Kuyt and Serbian winger Milos Krasic over the summer, added another transfer after losing to Spartak, signing midfielder Raul Meireles. The Portuguese player, who enjoyed a Champions League victory with Chelsea last season, is likely to make a crucial contribution to the Istanbul club. However, Fenerbahçe was criticized for adding such an important player after the Champions League playoffs.

Response to criticism

“People think signing a player is easy,” Chairman Aziz Yıldırım told NTV Spor last week. “We have worked on Meireles for months and could only finish the deal then.”

Meireles will be on the pitch today, but Kuyt will miss tonight’s game due to an injury he received in last weekend’s 2-1 league win over Mersin İdman Yurdu.

While Meireles is making his first European appearance for Fenerbahçe, Joey Barton, a player that he has faced in the English Premier League, may make his highly awaited Marseille debut.

Barton is currently serving a 12-match ban after being found guilty of two charges of violent conduct while playing for English Premier League club Queens Park Rangers in the 3-2 defeat to Manchester City on the last day of last season.

And Barton, on a year loan from QPR to the Mediterranean club, will sit out eight Ligue 1 or League Cup matches in France, in accordance with FIFA transfer rules.

But he is eligible to play in Europe and assistant coach Franck Passi said, “He’s spent two months without training normally.

“Physically, he’ll need a little more time but it’s possible that he takes part in the Europa League match” at Fenerbahçe. Passi added, “He’s a technically sound player and he’s trying to integrate himself to the very full in our football culture.”

Barton, who is deemed as “the enfant terrible” of English football, has a cult following among football fans, especially after opening a Twitter page sharing his musings about football, life and an affection for great British rock band The Smiths.

September/20/2012

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