Struggling Fenerbahçe seeks salvation on European stage

Struggling Fenerbahçe seeks salvation on European stage

Struggling Fenerbahçe seeks salvation on European stage

AA photo

Fenerbahçe will be searching for a much-needed victory when it hosts Russian club Krasnodar in the second leg of a Europa League round of 32 clash.

Having lost last week’s game in Russia 1-0, the home side will need at least a two-goal victory on Feb. 22 to advance to the next round and give its angry fans something to cheer about.

A goalless draw at home to Kasımpaşa in the Spor Toto Super League on Feb. 19 – leaving the club in fourth spot, 10 points behind leader Beşiktaş – was the last straw for supporters, who called for the resignation of the club’s board after the match.

Fenerbahçe has won only once in its last six games in the league and the European stage, increasing the pressure on the team’s Dutch coach, Dick Advocaat, who signaled his possible departure after Feb. 19’s game.

“I came here because I thought it was a good opportunity for me to end my career in a major club; I did not come for the money,” the 69-year-old told a post-game press conference. “If our board members think they can find a better coach, they should bring him in now.”

When asked if he would resign, Advocaat said he will not “comment on ifs.”

“I earlier said I would think until March and answer this question,” he added. “Let me keep my promise on that. This club is more important than me. I know the answer, but sometimes you cannot tell the answer on your mind. I’m still in charge here.”

One piece of good news for Fenerbahçe ahead of the critical game is the club’s home record on the European stage: The Istanbul club has not lost at Şükrü Saraçoğlu in nine Champions League qualification and Europa League games this season, including a run of seven straight European games victories.

Also in the Europe League on Feb. 21, Jose Mourinho will likely ring the changes again as Manchester United looks to wrap up its progress to the Europa League last 16 away to St. Etienne.

A Zlatan Ibrahimovic hat-trick led the Premier League side to a 3-0 victory in last week’s Old Trafford first leg and barring an alarming meltdown, the English giant should comfortably see out the second leg in France.

Mourinho made seven changes to his side for Feb. 19’s FA Cup victory over Blackburn and will likely keep his squad rotating with the English League Cup final against Southampton to come this weekend.

Just juggling his team enough to keep it fresh for every match is keeping Mourinho busy.

United will play at least 65 matches this season if it reaches the Europa League and FA Cup finals as well as the League Cup.

“I have to play St. Etienne, I have to play the [League Cup] final, I have to play, hopefully, another game in the Europa League, I have to fight for a top-four position in the Premier League. So I have so many things to think about,” the Portuguese coach said after his side beat Blackburn 2-1.

St. Etienne has not given up hope of causing a shock but its 2-1 defeat at Montpellier on Feb. 19 has dragged the team into a tight dog-fight in the battle to qualify for next year’s Europa League, leaving it level on points with Marseille and Bordeaux, and four behind local rival Lyon.

That will likely now prove the team’s priority.

St. Etienne coach Christophe Gautier said following the Old Trafford match: “We must respect the competition and the people who come to the stadium.”

But following the Montpellier defeat he had admitted that he has “some choices to make for the next matches.”

Also on Feb. 22, Schalke will look to ease its passage to the last 16, boasting a 3-0 advantage from the away leg against PAOK in Thessaloniki.