Fenerbahce are poised to reach the Champions League knockout stages for the first time. A home victory against an eliminated and depleted CSKA Moscow side would ensure their passage to the last 16.
Fenerbahçe’s task appears easier due to the fact that CSKA come to Turkey with a threadbare squad that has not played competitively in a month.
But home coach Zico is not thinking that way.
“In modern football, you can’t think you have won the game before the match,” he said, “especially before a Champions League game. They have nothing to play for but they are professionals. All professional footballers start with the desire to win. So we are not approaching this as an easy game.”
Zico is on the verge of taking a Turkish side past this round for the first time since 2001-02, but the Brazilian hands the credit to his players.
“This is the work of the team,” the 54-year-old said. “Fenerbahçe gave us this chance in the first place and it will be a success for the whole club. I am a Fenerbahce employee. Everything we have done individually has been for the team and for the club. What is most important for me is to make the fans happy.”
While Zico is without midfielders Tumer Metin, Stephen Appiah and Deniz Baris through injury, CSKA have much greater problems. They are without midfield duo Elvir Rahimic and Dudu through suspension and with several players are also unfit, including Brazilian forwards Vagner Love and Jo, defender Vasili Berezutski and midfielders Daniel Carvalho and Milos.
Coach Valeri Gazzaev has just 13 available outfield players including Turkish teenager Caner Erkin.
“We cannot go through but we are taking the game seriously,” he said. “We will field reserves and young players who have something to prove.”