Fener, Osmanlı looking for qualification
AA photoTurkey’s Fenerbahçe can advance to the round of 32 in the UEFA Europa League with a game to spare with the right combination of results on matchday five when it welcomes Ukraine’s Zorya Luhansk, while Osmanlıspor can also make it to the next round if it beats Romania’s Steaua București away.
If Fenerbahçe wins in Istanbul and Manchester United loses at home to Feyenoord, Fenerbahçe will advance.
Fenerbahçe is unbeaten in eight European home matches, including wins in the last six, and is well-motivated after reversing a bad start to the domestic league and beating its archrival Galatasaray 2-0 last week.
Turkish media have said Fener’s Dutch star Robin van Persie, who scored both goals against Galatasaray, may enjoy a rest against Zorya.
Simon Kjær scored a 95th-minute equalizer in Ukraine as Fenerbahçe earned a 1-1 draw in the sides’ first UEFA competition meeting on matchday one.
Manchester United stands a point behind Feyenoord and Fenerbahçe, who beat them in its last outing in Istanbul, to open up a fascinating three-way battle for the knockout round.
The last time Manchester United coach José Mourinho was involved in the tournament, albeit in its former UEFA Cup incarnation, he won it with Porto, 13 years ago.
But after two defeats and two wins so far this season with United, whom his Porto side famously knocked out of the Champions League a year later, there is a distinct possibility the Red Devils will miss out.
After the Fenerbahçe loss, Mourinho accused his men of “sleeping” on the job and looking as if they were “playing a summer friendly.”
Local media reports have suggested Mourinho would offer the Feyenoord test as a springboard for Henrikh Mkhitaryan, a bit-part player since his summer move from Borussia Dortmund.
“Obviously he is not happy but he is transforming his frustration in a good way which is close the mouth and work hard and try to adapt,” Mourinho said of the Armenian midfielder.
United needs to go all out for the win if they are to keep their campaign on track.
Osmanlıspor will visit a restless Steaua, which needs a win to resurrect its Group L campaign.
Steaua must hope the other game, between Zürich and Villarreal, is drawn if they draw or lose; Osmanlıspor, the group leader with 10 points, will go through with a victory.
Osmanlıspor’s Raul Rusescu is well known to Steaua fans, having scored 34 goals in 65 league games for the club from 2011 until 2013, and returned on loan from Sevilla in 2014/15.
Osmanlıspor’s Polish defender Łukasz Szukuła also played for Steaua from 2012 until 2015, as well as representing Gloria Bistriţa (2010-11), Universitatea Cluj (2011-12) and Petrolul Ploieşti (2012) in Romania.
Osmanlıspor beat Steaua 2-0 in Ankara when the sides met for the first time on matchday one.
The Turkish side beat Alanyaspor 2-0 in the local league in the domestic league last week, putting an end to six winless weeks.
Four sides have qualified in the Europe League to date – Zenit Saint Petersburg from Group D, in which Ireland’s Dundalk can still make it, former European champions Ajax from Group G, Shakhtar Donetsk, which has dominated Group H with four wins in four games, and Schalke, which is also yet to drop points in Group I.
On Nov. 24, Shakhtar will also host Turkey’s Konyaspor, the whipping boys of the group with one point so far.