Istanbul vs Shakhtar Donetsk sounds like UEFA Champions League football. Sadly for Shakhtar, however, Istanbul Başakşehir is neither Galatasaray nor Fenerbahçe, and the matchup is not a Champions League qualifier either.
Indeed Shakhtar Donetsk crashed and burned out of the Champions League third round qualifiers against Young Boys Bern. Shakhtar dominated the first leg in Lviv, and won easily 2-0 on July 26. But one week later on August 3 Shakhtar threw away their 2-0 lead, and lost 2-0 in regular time.
Extra time didn’t bring a win either, and the match went into penalties, where Shakhtar succumbed 4-2 in the penalty shootout, after the Ukrainian Yaroslav Rakitsky and the Brazilian Fred missed their penalties.
It is indeed an unfortunate start for Shakhtar’s new coach Paulo Fonseca. The Portuguese coach took over from the Romanian Mircea Lucescu this June. Lucescu had been in charge at Shakhtar for 12 years, but faced with the continuous exile in Lviv, and the departure of several high profile players, Lucescu decided to move on to one final challenge by taking over Zenit Saint Petersburg.
Fonseca had a successful spell at Sporting Braga (read more on him here), and there were high hopes that the Portuguese coach could continue Shakhtar’s long Champions League tradition. But unfortunately for Fonseca Shakhtar didn’t sign a single player, as management believed that the current crop of players would be enough to reach the Champions League group stage.
In fact this year will be the first time since 2007 that Shakhtar will not take part in the group stage of Europe’s most premier competition. Many observers will see this as further evidence of the club’s decline since being forced into exile.
Yet the hiring of an ambitious young coach in Paulo Fonseca was supposed to herald a new beginning at the club, and there were thoughts that Shakhtar would invest once the club had reached the group stage of the Champions League. Whether this will be the case if the club reaches the group stage of the Europa League remains to be seen.
With Istanbul Başakşehir, Shakhtar drew an opponent that should be easily beatable on the club’s path to the group stage. The club was officially founded in 1990 as İstanbul Büyükşehir Belediyespor, but was restructured into its current form in 2014—the date that is also displayed in the club’s crest.
The club plays its home games in the brand new Başakşehir Fatih Terim Stadium, which was opened in 2014. Furthermore, the club is understood to be the favourite team of Turkey’s President Tayyip Erdoğan, and therefore receives lavish funding from organizations and companies that are considered close to the government.
Hence, the club is understood to be a fake product without a real fan foundation. Seemingly limitless funds have meant that the club was able to put together a team that was strong enough to finish the 2015-16 Süper Lig in forth place, and therefore the club should not be underestimated by Shakhtar Donetsk.
Babacan – Albayrak, Epureanu, Ayhan, Ucar – Tekdemir, Belözuglu – Doka, Marcio, Visca – Batdal
Manager: Abdullah Avci
Pyatov – Ismaily, Kucher, Rakitsky, Srna – Fred, Stepanenko – Taison, Kovalenko, Marlos – Eduardo
Manager: Paulo Fonseca