Friday, October 22, 2021

Galatasaray, Fenerbahçe aim for Europa League success

Two Istanbul rivals start their Europa League campaigns on Sept. 16 when Galatasaray hosts Italy’s Lazio in a Group E match and Fenerbahçe visits Bundesliga club Eintracht Frankfurt in Group D.

After trying and failing to book their place in the Champions League, Galatasaray enters its maiden European clash of the season having posted an unbeaten start from its four Turkish Süper Lig games so far, but it threw away a two-goal lead against Trabzonspor at the weekend.

Lazio also failed to pick a win over the weekend, falling to a 2-0 defeat against AC Milan.

Maurizio Sarri, the Italian side’s coach, expects a difficult game in Istanbul.

“We will have a tough match against Galatasaray,” Sarri said.

“We will play against a high-level, technically capable team. The right thing to do is to apply the necessary trainings correctly to achieve a good result.”

Fenerbahçe travels to Germany to face Eintracht Frankfurt aiming to prolong an unbeaten streak, while the host side is winless in five games.

The German club’s new boss Oliver Glasner is not enjoying the best of starts since joining from Wolfsburg in the summer. His side is winless in its opening five competitive matches, with two defeats followed by three draws.

Fenerbahçe, on the other hand, has been unbeaten for 14 games, and has won four of its five Süper Lig games so far, drawing once.

Galatasaray and Fenerbahçe this season will be competing in a Europa League that has undergone dramatic weight-loss surgery.

After the UEFA Cup and Cup Winners Cup merged in 1999, UEFA kept its members happy by adding more and more slots in the Europa League.

Last year, 213 clubs played in the competition at some point. This year there will be just 58.

Three of the Europa League preliminary rounds have been trimmed and the group stage is made up of 32 clubs, down from a cumbersome 48.

Much of the bloat has been swept into the newly-launched third-tier Europa Conference League, which welcomed 181 clubs this season, increasing the total between the two competitions by 26.

Including the Champions League, 236 different clubs will play in one or other of the European competitions. Of those, 37 clubs, who drop down from the Champions League to the Europa League at various points, will play in both competitions. It is possible to play in all three.

While the Europa League’s role as a safety net means that eight potential winners will parachute down from the Champions League for the knockout rounds, the group stage contains plenty of teams with European pedigree and plenty nursing scars after failing to reach the Champions League group stage.

In addition to Galatasaray, the winner of the UEFA Cup and the European Super Cup in 2000, Napoli, Lazio, Eintracht Frankfurt, Bayer Leverkusen, PSV Eindhoven, Rangers and West Ham have all won either the Europa League or one of its precursors. PSV, Celtic, Red Star Belgrade and Marseille are former European champions.

Under the new format, the top teams in each group advance straight to the round of 16. The eight runners up face one of the third-placed teams from the Champions League in a “playoff” round.

Beşiktaş kicked off their Champions League campaign with a 2-1 defeat against Borussia Dortmund at home on Sept. 15.

The Turkish Süper Lig side made a good start to the Group C clash, but Michy Batshuayi’s shot was blocked by goalkeeper Gregor Kobel in the sixth minute at Istanbul’s Vodafone Park.

The visitors took the lead with Jude Bellingham’s finish in the 20th minute before Erling Haaland made the score 2-0 in the first half-stoppage time.

In the second half, Besiktas reduced the deficit in the stoppage time with a header from Francisco Montero but it was not enough for the home side.

The Bundesliga giants captured all 3 points in their Champions League opener.
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