Given the atmosphere of soul searching around the Emirates at present, Arsenal fans may worry for their club’s Champions League life ahead of the first leg of their qualifier with Fenerbahce, but the Yellow Canaries are a side in transition themselves and that’ll give the Gunners hope of gaining a draw to take back to England.
Arsenal’s defeat to Aston Villa brought the late summer soul-searching that is every Gooner’s burden into sharp focus, but Fener endured a similarly underwhelming start to the season, losing their first Turkish Lig game 3-2 to newly-promoted Konyaspor.
Under new manager Mersun Yanal the club have been experimenting with alternative formations and tactics and have yet to hit upon a definitive formula.
This is a meeting of two sides with plenty of experience of playing in Europe who have just received enlivening boots to the behind and it should be a very competitive affair, with a draw – priced up at 23/10 – the most likely result.
The hosts reached the Europa League semi-finals after crashing out in Champions League qualifying last term, losing only three of their 18 continental fixtures.
Just one of those defeats came in their nine home games and with the club due to appeal a match-fixing-based expulsion from European competition, a siege mentality has reportedly broken out amongst the club’s already none-more-passionate support, meaning Sukru Saracoglu will be an even more partisan redoubt than normal.
However, the Gunners are seasoned European practitioners, having qualified for every Champions League since the turn of the millennium and the only away games they’ve lost before the competition’s knockout stages in the past two seasons were dead-rubber group games against OIympiakos.
Fener’s strength is in attack, where Moussa Sow – who scored 19 times and assisted a further 10 goals last year – is a particularly dangerous presence and given how suspect the Arsenal back-line looked against Villa it’s hard to envisage them failing to net.
Equally Arsene Wenger’s men are expected to beat home stopper Volkan Demirel during the match, after all this is the side that came so close to knocking the Bayern Munich team that destroyed Barcelona 4-0 in Germany out of last season’s Champions League with a 2-0 victory at the Allianz Arena, with Mikel Arteta and Lukas Fabianski the only men to start that notable victory who are unlikely to play in Turkey.
With the pressure on the Turks to post a result which they can defend in Londinium meaning they’ll be taking the match to the visitors, they should provide Arsenal ample chance for their preferred method of goal gleaning – the counter attack – and both sides to score can be backed at 31/50.