Turks eye knockout stages in Europa League
AFP photoDraws will be enough for Turkish clubs Fenerbahçe and Osmanlıspor to advance from their respective groups when they play in the Europa League on Dec. 8.
Group A leader Fenerbahçe travels to Feyenoord, while Group L leader Osmanlıspor hosts FC Zurich at home.
Feyenoord, sitting in third spot in Group A, will need a victory by two goals against the visiting side to progress to the knockout stage.
“The home match against Fenerbahçe will be a good game. It is clear what we have to do, and it gives us confidence that we are still unbeaten at home,” said coach Giovanni van Bronckhorst, whose side lost 1-0 in Istanbul.
The Dutch club can only hope that visiting coach Dick Advocaat, who last spring worked successfully as an adviser to Van Bronckhorst, doesn’t have too much inside information.
Also in Group A, Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United faces Zorya Luhansk knowing that a draw in the frigid Ukraine will propel the club into the knockout stages.
But the Premier League side will want to go through in style with victory, even if Europe’s second-tier competition does not feature at the top of their priorities in Mourinho’s first season in charge.
The Old Trafford side will also be eager to end a bout of frustrating draws, the latest being a 1-1 stalemate at Everton at the weekend when Mourinho’s men conceded an 89th-minute equalizer from the spot.
The Zorya match will take place in Odessa, southern Ukraine, a four-hour flight from northern England and where temperatures will hover around freezing by evening kickoff.
Zorya might already be out of the competition, but United’s French forward Anthony Martial is not expecting the Ukrainians just to lie down.
“It is very different, not just the supporters but the weather. Over there, it’s really cold at this time of the season,” Martial told MUTV.
“But it’s down to us to come to terms with that, adapt to the environment we find ourselves in and get the victory we need.”
“We’re expecting a difficult encounter. Things went quite well for us in the home game [1-0 to United] but it’ll be different over there. They’ll be in front of their own supporters and will be determined to make life difficult for us to get a result, so we’ll be on our guard,” he added.
In the Turkish capital Ankara, Osmanlıspor will be out against Zurich to make history in its first season in the Europa League.
“When we began our Europa League campaign we set our sights on reaching the group stage,” says Osmanlıspor captain Numan Çürüksu.
“Then, when we got there, we set sights on the knockout stages. Anything is possible for us,” he added.
One point separates four teams in Group L, which will also see a clash between Villareal and Steaua Bucharest.
Also on Dec. 8 in the Europa League, Ireland’s Dundalk and Qarabag of Azerbaijan can make a slice of history.
No Irish side has ever reached the knockout stages of a UEFA club competition but domestic champion Dundalk can change that if it wins at Maccabi Tel Aviv and AZ Alkmaar does not at home to Zenit St Petersburg.
A score draw for the Irish would also suffice if AZ lose in the Netherlands.
Qarabag will definitely qualify with a home victory in Baku over Fiorentina, which is all but through.
The European minnow, which is in the Europa League group stage for a third straight campaign but has yet to make it to the round of 32, is impressive at home.
Qarabag is unbeaten in five European home matches since a 1-0 loss to Tottenham Hotspur in last season’s group stage.