Location: Sukru Saracoglu Stadium, Istanbul, Turkey
Kick-off: 2045 CET, 2145 Local Time, 2345 IST
Referee: Gianluca Rocchi
Arsenal spent most of the second half of last season fighting for a place in this season’s UEFA Champions League. A ten-match unbeaten run in the season’s run-in has afforded them just that and today, they have a chance to complete what they set out to do when Laurent Koscielny’s goal helped them pip Tottenham Hotspur to a place in Europe’s elite.
Fenerbahce will want to win this game as much as their opponents do but there is no guarantee that they will be in this competition even if they do beat the Gunners today evening. Despite beating Red Bull Salzburg earlier in the tournament, they are embroiled in a match fixing scandal that UEFA are currently investigating. With the likes of Metalist Kharkiv and Malaga already banned from the competition (the latter due to failure in paying wages on time), the Turkish side could follow them through the Champions League exit door.
Last five fixtures: LLWDL
August 17, 2013, 2-3 vs. Konyaspor, (A), Turkish Super Lig
August 11, 2013, 0-1 vs. Galatasaray SK (N), Turkish Super Kupasi
August 6, 2013: 3-1 vs. Red Bull Salzburg (H), UEFA Champions League
July 31, 2013: 1-1 vs. Red Bull Salzburg (A), UEFA Champions League
July 24, 2013: 0-2 vs. PSV Eindhoven (A), Pre-season friendly
Despite having won only one of their last five fixtures, Fenerbahce can count on their fanatical home support to give them the edge in the Turkish capital. Fans of the Yellow Canaries assembled en masse in front of the hotel where the Gunners where staying while they are in Turkey and proceeded to systematically intimidate them with the lighting of flares, shouting of slogans and the banging of drums.
The Turkish side have had more experience playing regular football this season than their English opponents and some of it has come in the side’s previous qualifying round against Austrian side Red Bull Salzburg.
The Turks drew 1-1 in the Austrian capital via a last-gasp penalty from substitute Cristian and sealed qualification to the playoffs with a 3-1 win at home, courtesy goals from Raul Meireles, Moussa Sow and Pierre Webo.
The Turkish side held Arsenal to a goalless draw when the two sides met in 2008 and coach Ersun Yansal will be hoping to better that at home.
Last five fixtures: LWLDW
August 17, 2013: 1-3 vs. Aston Villa (H), Barclays Premier League
August 10, 2013: 3-1 vs. Manchester City (N), Carlsberg Football Tournament
August 4, 2013, 1-2 vs. Galatasaray SK (H), Emirates Cup
August 3, 2013, 2-2 vs. Napoli SSC (H), Emirates Cup
July 26, 2013, 2-1 vs. Urawa Red Diamonds (A), Saitama Cup
Arsenal began their season in the worst possible start when they capitulated at home to a 3-1 win against Aston Villa. Despite Olivier Giroud giving the hosts the lead inside the first ten minutes, Villa fought back with a brace from Christian Benteke and a goal from debutant Antonio Luna to come away with a famous win at the Emirates.
Despite the game being poorly officiated by referee Anthony Taylor, who was later suspended by the FA, manager Arsene Wenger will be hoping his side can recapture the form his team showed when they last visited Istanbul.
On that day, goals from Emmanuel Adebayor, Theo Walcott, Aaron Ramsey, Alexandre Song and Abou Diaby gave them a resounding 5-2 win on their travels.
Most players who come to Arsenal do so because of the incentive of Champions League football and qualifying for the competition proper means the Gunners can bring in much-needed reinforcements. That begins with a favourable result tonight.
Manager Ersun Yunsal is a Champions League debutant at this level, but has managed a club at European level before, having been to the Europa League with Genclerbirligi and getting the better of Blackburn Rovers.
He will have a full squad with experienced players to help him advance during his first season with the Yellow Canaries.
Squad (from): Volkan Demirel, Mert Günok, Murat Hocaoğlu, Erten Ersu, Egemen Korkmaz, Hasan Ali Kaldırım, Bekir İrtegün, Joseph Yobo, Berkaycan Değirmencioğlu, Bruno Alves, Michal Kadlec, Metincan Cici, Egemen Zengin, Gökhan Gönül, Mehmet Topal, Miroslav Stoch, Raul Meireles, Cristian, Recep Niyaz, Selçuk Şahin, Emre Belözoğlu, Alper Potuk, Miloš Krasić, Mehmet Topuz, Muhammed Akarslan, Ramazan Civelek, Salih Uçan, Caner Erkin, Moussa Sow, Pierre Webó, Dirk Kuyt, Emmanuel Emenike, Aziz Ceylan
Probable Starting XI: Demirel, Gonul, Zan, Alves, Kaldirim, Topal, Meireles, Krasic, Kuyt, Webo, Emenike
The Gunners suffered several injuries during the game against Villa but with the exception of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, all of those who took knocks in that game are back in contention for a starting berth. Nacho Monreal is back with the squad.
Squad (from): Wojciech Szczesny, Lukasz Fabianski, Damian Martinez, Per Mertesacker, Laurent Koscielny, Bacary Sagna, Tomas Rosicky, Lukas Podolski, Jack Wilshere, Olivier Giroud, Theo Walcott, Aaron Ramsey, Nacho Monreal, Santi Cazorla, Yaya Sanogo, Carl Jenkinson, Emmanuel Frimpong, Kieran Gibbs, Ryo Miyaichi, Daniel Boateng, Zachari Fagan, Isaac Hayden, Brandon Ormonde-Ottewill, Jack Jebb, Thomas Eisfeld, Serge Gnabry, Nicholas Yennaris, Gideon Zelalem, Benik Afobe, Zak Ansah, Chuba Akpom, Anthony Jeffrey, Austin Lipman
Probable Starting XI: Szczesny, Jenkinson, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Gibbs, Ramsey, Wilshere, Cazorla, Walcott, Podolski, Giroud
Despite Arsenal being the obvious favourites on paper, Fenerbahce’s home support which borders on the fanatical and the topsy-turvy form of both teams makes this a very even game.
Fenerbahce SK 1-2 Arsenal FC