Trabzonspor gunning to pull off another upset win
Trabzonspor’s Turkish international forward Halil Altıntop (L) runs with the ball during his team’s Champions League match against CSKA Moscow of Russia. AFP photo
Trabzonspor hosts group leader Inter Milan tonight in a crucial game that is likely to seal the team’s fate in the Champions League.
Inter needs only a draw to advance, while the Black Sea Storm is challenging second-place CSKA Moscow to get a place in the round of last 16.
The Italians, who won the Champions League title under Jose Mourinho’s spell in 2010, have nine points. CSKA and Trabzonspor are next with five points each, while Lille has two.
Also in Group B, last-place Lille will take on CSKA Moscow. The French club has to win its last two games to advance, including a home match against Trabzonspor.
Inter lost to the Turkish club 1-0 in September before going on to win three matches.
The match was Trabzonspor’s debut in the top-level competition in European football, since the team was a last-minute addition to the Champions League.
Last season’s Turkish league runner-up Trabzonspor was knocked out of Champions League preliminaries following an aggregate defeat to Benfica. However, after the Turkish Football Federation (TFF) decision to bar champion Fenerbahçe, who is in the center of a match fixing case, from the Champions League. European football’s governing body decided to include Trabzonspor to the competition.
Trabzonspor won with a sole goal by Ondrej Celustka, and will try to do the same at the Hüseyin Avni Aker Stadium tonight.
Forward Burak Yılmaz will again be his team’s key player, since he has scored 13 goals so far this season.
Inter leads the group with nine points despite losing seven of its 15 matches in all competitions this season.
Inter’s president Massimo Moratti is confident coach Claudio Ranieri can start to turn the season around following back-to-back wins.
“The squad is starting to tick, especially the new signings - and you can add Coutinho to that group because he’s like a new acquisition who needs to prove himself,” Moratti said.
Ranieri is without star player Wesley Sneijder, who has been diagnosed with a strained muscle in his right leg after getting injured during the pre-match warm-up for a 2-1 win over Cagliari in Serie A on Saturday.
Coutinho replaced Sneijder against Cagliari and scored his first goal of the season to help Inter to just its third win in the Italian league.
Defenders Lucio and Yuto Nagatomo have recovered from injuries and are back in Inter’s squad.
CSKA, meanwhile, is also without its best player, with striker Seydou Doumbia suspended after being sent off in the 0-0 away draw against Trabzonspor on Nov. 2.
Doumbia’s two goals helped CSKA rally from 2-0 down to draw 2-2 away to Lille in September, and the Ivory Coast forward has scored nine goals in the last six games - including two hat tricks.
Coach Leonid Slutsky must hope Doumbia’s red card doesn’t prove costly.
“Clearly, Doumbia is our key striker this season, but we will have to try to play without him,” Slutsky said. “It will be a tough game for both teams. Lille will have to be aggressive in attack.” CSKA will rely on Brazilian striker Vagner Love, who has scored 116 goals since he joined the team in 2004. Love was suspended for CSKA’s last two matches in the Russian league.
Additional AP report was used in this story.