Europa dream begins for Turkish teams
AA photoFenerbahçe, whose new coach won the UEFA Europe League with Zenit in 2008, will kick off its campaign with a Group A encounter with Ukraine’s Zorya, while Osmanlıspor, the other Turkish team in the competition, will take on Steaua Bucureşti.
Zorya Luhansk will face a stern test in their debut match in a UEFA group stage when it plays host to European regular Fenerbahçe.
The UEFA Europa League fixture is Zorya’s maiden encounter with a Turkish opposition.
Fenerbahçe has not won in six games against Ukrainian teams, all of them versus Shakhtar Donetsk or Dynamo Kyiv.
Most recently, the Yellow Canaries lost 3-0 to Shakhtar last term in the second leg of a UEFA Champions League third qualifying round tie.
A semi-finalist in 2012-13, Fenerbahçe successfully negotiated all four of their previous UEFA Cup and UEFA Europa League group stage campaigns.
Fenerbahçe won their two fixtures in this season’s qualifying competition without conceding, beating the Grasshoppers 5-0 on aggregate.
Fenerbahçe’s Robin van Persie, a former Manchester United and Feyenoord striker, won the competition with boyhood club Feyenoord in 2002.
Coach Yuriy Vernydub has been in charge at Zorya since stepping up from his role as assistant coach in November 2011.
A Russian Cup winner with Zenit in 1999, toward the end of his playing career, he steered Zorya to a fourth-place finish in Ukraine last season.
Dick Advocaat is in his first term with Fenerbahçe and his side is under heavy pressure at home for gaining only one point in the first three Spor Toto Super League games.
Meanwhile, Osmanlıspor striker Raul Rusescu may find allegiances tested when his current side takes on old club Steaua Bucureşti in their opening Group L fixture.
The sides are meeting for the first time, as this is Osmanlıspor’s first encounter with Romanian opponents.
Steaua’s record in nine meetings with Turkish sides is four wins, three draws and two losses.
Osmanlıspor has won all three of their European home games this season without conceding. It reached the group stage unbeaten in six qualifying games.
This is Osmanlıspor’s first UEFA group stage campaign. It previously competed in Europe under the name Ankaraspor.
Meanwhile, fresh from giving his players a rollicking, Jose Mourinho’s focus turns from Manchester United’s derby defeat to European action with a tricky Europa League opener at in-form Feyenoord on Sept. 15.
It will be the Portuguese manager’s first game in the second-tier European competition since winning its predecessor, the UEFA Cup, with Porto in 2003 and he says he is taking it seriously.
Mourinho’s unbeaten start as United manager came to a stuttering stop on Sept. 10, as long-time nemesis Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City left Old Trafford with a 2-1 victory.
United can expect a tough Group A opener at Feyenoord, which is top of the Dutch league having won all five of their matches this season, and has pedigree in the competition.