By Chris Harris
On the evidence of last season, a trip to Fenerbahce is a daunting prospect. On the evidence of this season, it is far less frightening.
Last term the Turks racked up wins over Anderlecht, Inter Milan, PSV Eindhoven, CSKA Moscow and Chelsea before they were eventually humbled in the last eight of the Champions League. Now Luis Aragones has taken over - fresh from his Euro 2008 triumph with Spain - but Fenerbahce are mired in the bottom half of their domestic league and their European dream is faltering after just one point from two group games.
Now it's do or die for Aragones' new team. They must rediscover their sparkling form of last season and beat Arsenal - or face the very real prospect of an early exit.
We asked Emre Akin of Turkish newspaper Hurriyet for a Fenerbahce perspective ahead of Tuesday's vital game. Read on for his take on the Turks' recent struggles, the new man at the helm and the partisan crowd which awaits Arsène Wenger's men in Istanbul.
THE STORY SO FAR
"The main reason is the coach changing for Fenerbahce's poor start to the season is that they changed their coach. Zico had a fantastic season last year and he left the club because he couldn’t make the team win the championship in Turkey. When he left the team, Fenerbahce appointed Luis Aragones after his great success with the Spanish national team. Also at the start of the season, Fenerbahce lost six or seven of their best players from the camp. Fenerbahce played six games in the Turkish League and lost four of them. For those reasons Fenerbahce did not really start well."
"They lost Deivid de Souza who played on the right-hand side. He was the guy who scored the second goal against Chelsea in the Quarter-Final and also he scored five goals in the entire tournament last season. They also lost Emre Gokhan. There are five or six new young players in the team."
MAN OF THE MOMENT
"It is the first time Luis Aragones is out of his country. He had very successful times with Spain over the past maybe 15 years. The culture is obviously different and he is having a language problem as well in Turkey. He has a helper who tries to explain what he is saying to the players. I know he is struggling to adapt to Turkey and also the fans think he is a bit old at 70 years old. The fans are really not happy with that. They had a very good relationship with Zico and they really, really miss him."
REASONS TO BE CHEERFUL
"Fenerbahce are playing poorly but there is a positive mood in Turkey about the national team because of what happened at Euro 2008. If you look at all the Turkish teams they have a lot of their best players out injured and they are having a bad season basically."
THE ONE TO WATCH
"Daniel Guiza is the key person to the team. And also Alex de Souza, who plays just behind him. Also Roberto Carlos who is a guy who really didn’t have a great start for the team. But his experience and knowledge makes him one of the key players in the team. All the players really like Roberto Carlos and they really treat him as an older brother."
"It is a must-win game for the Turkish side. Obviously if they have a draw or lose they will go out of the tournament so it will be like a Final for the players. They will need to attack. It will be a huge atmosphere and there will 55,000 fans there. The fans at Fenerbahce are like a 12th player so for those reasons they are going to play attacking football. If you look at Arsenal they always try to play positive football so I think we will see lots of goals. I can’t say who will win but I think there will be lots of goals in the game. But there will definitely be confidence because Fenerbahce are at home. If you look at last season they played against Anderlecht, Inter Milan, PSV, CSKA Moscow and Chelsea and in those six games they didn’t even draw, they won all of the games. I reckon their confidence will be very high."
IMPRESSIONS OF ARSENAL
"If you look at Fenerbahce, they have no real problem with the English sides. They had a very big problem in the 1999/2000 season. I talked with the fans and they really say Arsenal fans are more than welcome to join in the stadium and they say they will help with the incredible atmosphere. The fans could experience the warmest and friendliest of Turkish hospitality and inside they can enjoy the spectacle of the game. Therefore I call this an unmissable opportunity I think. As for Arsenal's players, Cesc Fabregas is the one they fear the most. He is one of the youngest players and he gives 100 per cent for the club. He is having a very successful year for Arsenal and Spain."