Thursday, November 23, 2006

European Fame Rides on Beating Palermo

Conventional wisdom says that the UEFA Cup is not comparable to Champions League. The Champions League IS the best of the best, while the UEFA Cup is typically regarded as the "league of others." However, Fenerbahce has an opportunity on Thursday to make a huge statement in Europe. Beating Palermo would open more than a few eyes. Palermo currently sits atop Italian Serie A, alongside Inter Milan. Even when Serie A is down, it is still highly regarded as one of the best leagues in the world. Fenerbahce has everything it needs to succeed in Europe, except for the ridiculous "six foreign player" rule other European leagues don't have to endure. The money, the resources, the facilities are all in place for Fenerbahce to be a major European contender. Most teams would kill to have the loyal fanbase of Fener, with fans that travel all over the globe to see the Canaries play.

Despite all of the positives, Fener lacks a true statement win over a great European club in the last couple of years. A win today over Palermo would provide such a statement for them. Beat Serie A's best and Europe will take notice.

Many critics will point to Fener's loss to Newcastle and previous two league draws and say the team has no confidence and no chance. Palermo is enduring a bit of a slump at the moment as well. The Italian side also lost 1-0 to Newcastle a few weeks ago, and they are coming off a disappointing loss to Cagliari in league action last weekend. Now the team must go into one of the toughest and most intimidating venues in all of Europe - Sukru Saracoglu Stadium in Kadikoy.

Zico is expected to make a few changes for tonight's game. Struggling Deivid de Souza may start on the bench today, while Tuncay Sanli and Mateja Kezman should both start at forward. Fener would give anything to have starting GK Rustu Recber in goal, but instead will have struggling Volkan Demirel. Demirel has taken a beating from fans and the media lately, following his crucial mistake in last week's international friendly vs. Italy. No one needs to have a bigger game for Fenerbahce today than Volkan Demirel.

Fenerbahce has a golden opportunity on Thursday to turn a few heads across Europe. Everything is in place for Euro success, except for a signature win. That may all change with one performance today.

Match Notes:

Today's game marks the 126th European competition for Fenerbahce. They have won 39 games, lost 69 games, and drawn 17 games in Euro action. Fener's record is 1-9 vs. Italian sides, with their only win coming against Parma in 1998-1999 UEFA Cup action. This is Palermo's first-ever game vs. a Turkish side.

Stephen Appiah will see some familiar faces on the opposing sideline today. When he was with Italian side Brescia in 2002-2003, he played alongside Palermo's Aimo Diana, Roberto Guano and Marco Pisano.


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