ISTANBUL - Şükrü Saracoğlu Stadium will have a Champions League Group Stage game worthy of a final for Fenerbahçe tonight. The Yellow Canaries take on Porto in a match in which anything less than a win will end their hopes of progressing past the group stage. Fener needs Arsenal to win over Dynamo Kiev as well.
So far things are not going smoothly for Fenerbahçe this season and tonight’s home game against Porto will be something of a last gasp to defend its Champions League quarterfinalist tag.
The Istanbul side is dwelling at the bottom of the Group G of the Champions League, with only two points from four games. Its hopes of advancing from the group are considerably slim but it still has the chance to decide its own fate.
If Fenerbahçe wins its last two games, or even gets away with four points from one victory over Porto and one draw at Dynamo Kiev, it may have a shot of getting the second spot in the group, if the other games go in its way. But either way, a win against Porto is a must. Furthermore, the Yellow Canaries will be hoping Dynamo Kiev and Porto both fail in their remaining games against Arsenal.
In its first game against Porto, Fenerbahçe had a nightmarish opening, conceding two goals in the first quarter hour of the game. It clawed one back with Daniel Güiza’s debut Champions League goal but its hopes were over with a late Porto goal that completed the game 3-1.
After getting a point from the bore that was the 0-0 draw against Dynamo Kiev, Fenerbahçe had one of the worst nights in its history when it was trounced 5-2 by Arsenal at its own Şükrü Saracoğlu Stadium. However, there were signs of bouncing back when it managed to hold Arsenal to a goalless draw in London.
Fenerbahçe hopes that its ambitious crowd at Kadıköy will compensate for its injured and suspended players. Defender Diego Lugano and star left back Roberto Carlos will probably be out of action in tonight’s game, while Selçuk Şahin will be serving his double yellow card suspension. The good news is attacking midfielder Alex de Souza will be starting, while striker Semih Şentürk is back at light training and may play.
More positive news for Fener is that Porto’s Argentine player Lucho Gonzalez is suspended due to a red card. Porto may miss the technical prowess that Lucho, who is nicknamed "El Comandante" by Portuguese fans, brings to the team but another Argentinian, Lisandro Lopez, is likely to lead the team’s attack.
Fenerbahçe failed to live up to expectations that were boosted from last year’s quarterfinal success, but still, it is not the biggest disappointment of this season.
The most successful club in the 53-year history of European football's most prestigious competition, Real Madrid is making hard work of reaching the last 16 of the Champions League and the pressure continues to build on coach Bernd Schuster.
While more of its biggest rivals could clinch spots this week, Real Madrid is still in danger of being left behind in what would amount to a humiliation for the nine-time winner. Madrid will make it to the knockout phase with a victory at BATE Borisov tonight. But current form makes the long journey to Belarus look far more daunting than it should be. Winger Royston Drenthe admitted there was an edgy atmosphere at the club.
"Of course, (tension) is normal. We have to win games, you know," he said. "You play for a club like Real Madrid, the people outside start talking. It's not easy to play football here, the people are very strong. A couple of losses and it's difficult. But this is Real Madrid. You go out to play football like you know, not like the crowd but how your trainer and you know."