Fener, Besiktas aim to secure Europa spots

Besiktas will play Skenderbeu in Group H hoping for a second win to keep them in second place after Russian side Lokomotiv Moskva, which faces Sporting Lisbon. The match kicks off at 8 p.m. at Ataturk Olympic Stadium in İstanbul. Sporting needs a win to have any hope at all of passing current runner-up Besiktas.

Molde-Fenerbahce kicks off at 10:05 p.m. at the Molde Stadion. In further group A matches, Ajax will play Celtic in desperate need of a win, otherwise the Yellow Canaries will retain the upper hand to advance with just one match left in the stage.

Challenging Molde

Molde has taken everyone by surprise by leading a group occupied by the likes of Netherlands giant Ajax and Fenerbahce. Vitor Pereira and his Canaries will be more prepared for a tough match when they meet in Norway on Thursday. They will face a slightly different Molde, which replaced Coach Erling Moe with Ole Gunnar Solskjær before the last match but continues to dominate.

With five points, just two on Ajax and three on Celtic, Fenerbahce will only be assured a place if it wins and the other match is a draw. Molde has secured its spot with 10 points, but a win would ensure the team keeps first place in the group on its second foray into the Europa group stage.

Vitor Pereira has two injuries on his plate, Senegal defender Abdoulaye Ba and Portugal midfielder Raul Meireles, since Caner Erkin returned to training as did back up keeper Fabiano Ribeiro.

“We are going to play in different weather conditions in Norway. It will not be the environment or type of pitch we are used to, but we cannot think about that now. We must prepare for the match and concentrate on what we can do on the pitch as much as possible,” the Brazilian goalie said.

Molde made statements about how dangerous Fenerbahce’s Robin van Persie would be, but it was Luis Nani who scored the Canaries’ only goal against the Norwegian side last time they met.

More than a draw

The Black Eagles are in a very similar shaky second-place position in their own group. They have six points to Sporting’s four and Skenderbeu’s three. They do have an advantage to continue, but they must stop drawing and get another win.

Luckily, the home match on Thursday will be the best place to do it. Besiktas’s only win thus far has come against the Albanian club. Besiktas edged Skenderbeu 1-0 in Albania in matchday two with a Jose Sosa goal in the first half.

Besiktas has also recovered from a funk at home, so they remain on top of the domestic league and in high spirits after their recent Super League win. Coach Senol Gunes’s only injury concern is the state of Ricardo Quaresma’s hamstring, which makes him doubtful for the match.

The Portugal winger tirelessly worked the pitch on Sunday and would be a helpful addition as the Eagles try to break their habit of scoring just one goal per match this group stage. And Besiktas may have won its last domestic match 2-0, but the Eagles squandered many chances to record an even higher scoreline, which is not acceptable when you are playing with the likes of German striker Mario Gomez.

If the Eagles cannot manage to score more, they will at least have to plug up their leaky defense and strike earlier in the match. All but one of their goals have come in the second half, and that was the one against Skenderbeu, the Eagles’ only win.


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