With the final edition of the UEFA Champions League Scouting Reports we take a look at Fenerbahçe, a Turkish club who have been on the rise recently, bringing in the majority of their club in the past season or two, and are considered to be one of the biggest underdogs remaining in the tournament.
Fenerbahçe have not been considered to be a top club in Europe by most outside of Turkey, but at home the fans know how truly dangerous their team is. With the arrival of Brazilian legend Zico as manager in 2006, Fenerbahçe lit a spark that has left them playing top level soccer since then. Zico brought on great South American talent to the club including Roberto Carlos, Diego Lugano, Edu Dracena, Wederson, Deivid and Chile's international captain Claudio Maldonado, all of whom play a huge role in the team's recent success.
Along with the South American additions to the team were Serbian striker Mateja Kezman and several promising Turkish youngsters coming from the youth academy including Gökhan Gönül and Ali Bilgin. These new aditions helped earn Fenerbahce the Turkish Super League title and Turkish Cup in 2007, as well as a first place spot in the Turkish league table as of today.
Despite popular belief, Fenerbahce actually have a pretty tough lineup (which they'd obviously need to progress past powerhouse Sevilla into the quarterfinals), but most people, especially from what I heard, having been giving the team enough credit. Fenerbahce's lineup is very deep and talented, and unlike many of the teams in the quarterfinals, especially the English, it is made almost entirely of Turkish players. This may not seem like much of a strength, but it does help somewhat with the club chemistry.
And although people don't like to admit it, Zico is one of the best coaches in the game. He turned a struggling Fenerbahce around when he arrived in 06, gave the lineup a makeover and gave the team the Turkish double in his first season. Also note that Fenerbahce have never progressed past the group stages of the Champions League until now, which is a major motivational tool for the players and fans.
Fenerbahce play in ??ükrü Saraco??lu Stadium, the site of the 2009 UEFA Cup Final, which holds over 50,000 people. Turkey is home to some of the most passionate and loyal fans in the entire world, and when Chelsea visit tomorrow, the fans will surely come out in full force behind their team.
Perhaps their most eye-opening strength, at least to me, was their dominance at home during the Champions League. Fenerbahce have quietly won the past 11 games played at home during the Champions League, including wins against PSV, Sevilla and Inter Milan.
Semih Senturk, Deivid and Diego Lugano celebrate a Fenerbahce goal
When comparing Fenerbahce to the other remaining teams in the quarterfinals, one thing jumps out: compared to other teams, Fenerbahce do not have many superstars on their roster. A casual soccer fan may just notice Roberto Carlos and say he's an aging Brazilian defender who's nearing the end of his career. This is in fact wrong, as Roberto Carlos has been an essential element in the team's excellent back line throughout the season.
Their lineup is also insufficient to others in the fact that they do not have as much depth as other lineups, especially their quarterfinal nemesis, Chelsea. Fenerbahce have a good starting XI, but afterwards no impressive names spend time on the bench, outside of the striker position, which has four impressive attackers in Deivid, Kezman, Semih ??entürk and Colin Kazim-Richards.
Another weakness may be the fact that Fenerbahce play in the Turkish Super League, a league that is tough, but nowhere near as competitive as other European leagues such as the English Premier, La Liga, Bundesliga and Serie A, who all have teams left in the tournament. With a weaker league, they are playing with a slight disadvantage, as they aren't as accustomed to playing tougher teams like other teams in the Champions League are.
Like I said before, Fenerbahce's fans are very passionate for their team, but Turkey's fans also have a reputation as some of the most violent in the world. One of Fenerbahce's top fan groups, Kill For You (KFY), is a dangerous and blood-thirsty group of fans that spread violence in the name of Fenerbahce. If Fenerbahce's fans turn violent in the match, which they are notorious for, it may take away from the team's concentration on the game.
Fenerbahce have a very passionate fan base.
Fenerbahce are a very underrated squad and have done very well in the tournament so far, but they do not have the depth or talent to surpass Chelsea. They narrowly progressed after penalty kicks against Sevilla, and Sevilla is no where near as good as Chelsea, to put it plainly.
Fenerbahce may play well at home, possibly putting up a tie against the Blues, but they have little hope in their second leg matchup at Stamford Bridge. For the "Yellow Canaries", as they are affectionately called, the run ends here.