Fenerbahçe vs Krasnodar – Wednesday 18:00 GMT/19:00 CET Şükrü Saracoğlu Stadium – Istanbul
It did not take long for Futbolgrad’s Player to Look Out For to make an impression last week, as Swedish debutant Viktor Claesson stooped to head home the only goal of the game after just three minutes. Granted, the home side tired towards the end of the match, but keeping out an experienced side while taking an advantage to Turkey is about as positive a result as Igor Shalimov could have wished for.
In fact it is only his fifth win since officially taking over the reigns, but while his predecessor Oleg Kononov watched on from the Match TV studio in Moscow, Shalimov began the awkward readjustment back to full-time competitive action with relative ease.
In truth, the Turkish outfit were desperately unimaginative and struggled to make any notable impression in the game. The likes of Moussa Sow and Emmanuel Emenike had been expected to cause problems for a defence that was without captain Andreas Granqvist through suspension, but the skipper’s replacement Alexander Martynovich – who is likely to return to the bench – showed calmness throughout, even providing the bursting run to set up the winner.
It will be a completely different scene in Istanbul however, as Fenerbahçe welcome the Russians to their famously intense home ground. One goal is an easily-surmountable margin, and with talismanic defender Martin Škrtel back from suspension they will be in a stronger position than before.
Where Krasnodar might hold a slight advantage is that they will have had almost an entire week to prepare, whereas Fenerbahçe had a league fixture against Kasimpassa—a disappointing goalless draw—at the weekend leaving less time to recover physically. Fine margins perhaps, but Fener’s starting XI was a virtually first-choice lineup as Roman Neustädter made way for Škrtel. In theory Robin van Persie is available and rested after serving the second match of his domestic ban, but the Dutchman is relatively out of favour after tat incident and may not be picked.
This tie remains finely balanced, with Fenerbahçe’s position as hosts for the return leg making them marginal favourites to progress. It is far from a foregone conclusion, however, especially given the hugely promising debuts of Claesson and Cristian Ramírez. The question is whether Krasnodar will press for an away goal, or be satisfied to sit back and soak up the inevitable pressure that will be thrown their way. Given his coaching disposition so far, it seems likely Shalimov will opt for the latter.
Fenerbahçe vs Krasnodar – Players to Look Out For
While their powerful forwards will surely cause greater problems for Krasnodar’s defence than they did in the first leg, Brazilian holding midfielder Souza may hold the key for the hosts. His understanding with Turkish international Mehmet Topal forms an experienced axis shielding the defence – if the Russians are to get any joy from this game, they will need to find a way past the energetic Souza.
Cristian Ramírez had a hugely encouraging debut in the 1-0 victory, showing endless controlled energy moving forward with the ball and ambition to take on players. If anything, he was Krasnodar’s leading attacking threat down the left flank, but his accuracy in the tackle and confidence were qualities Krasnodar will need in abundance to nullify the danger of Fenerbahce’s attack.
Fenerbahçe vs Krasnodar – Match Stats
- Fenerbahçe have only won twice against Russian sides, but have never lost at home
- They have only won once in their last five competitive matches
- In their last seven competitive fixtures they remain unbeaten having kept six clean sheets, and have won eight of their previous nine home games in European competitions
- Krasnodar hadn’t won in four Europa League matches before beating Fenerbahçe in the first leg
- Krasnodar have only scored twice in their last four away trips in the Europa League group stage and knockout rounds
Futbolgrad Prediction: Fenerbahçe vs Krasnodar 2-1
Demirel – van der Wiel, Kjær, Škrtel, Kaldirim – Souza, Topal – Lens, Emenike, Turfan – Sow
Manager: Dick Advocaat
Kritsyuk – Kaleshin, Naldo, Granqvist, Ramírez – Gazinsky, Kaboré, Pereyra – Wanderson, Smolov, Claesson
Manager: Igor Shalimov