The marquee signing of Robin van Persie has underlined Fenerbahce’s determination to compete with the best in Europe again, but they face a tough task just to make it beyond the Champions League third qualifying round.
The Istanbul giants host Ukrainian side Shakhtar Donetsk in the first leg at the Sukru Saracoglu stadium on Tuesday as they return to European competition having served a two-year ban for their involvement in match-fixing.
Fener are looking to return to the group stage of the Champions League for the first time since the 2008-09 season and have splashed the cash in an attempt to make their mark abroad and at home, where they will bid to wrestle the title back from bitter rivals Galatasaray.
Portuguese former Porto coach Vitor Pereira has been brought in to oversee a squad that will include Van Persie and Nani — both signed from Manchester United for a total of 10.7 million euros (A?7.6m, $11.9m).
Denmark defender Simon Kjaer, from Lille, and Brazil midfielder Souza, from Sao Paulo, have also come in and last season’s leading scorer Moussa Sow remains.
However, Van Persie has only just begun pre-season training so he may have to wait to make an impact.
In contrast, Shakhtar, Champions League regulars these days, will benefit from already being two games into their domestic league season.
Mircea Lucescu’s side have sold some of their biggest names, with Brazilian duo Douglas Costa and Luiz Adriano going to Bayern Munich and AC Milan respectively for a combined 38 million euros.
However, their squad still contains a strong Brazilian influence, including the in-form Alex Teixeira and the midfielder Marlos.
“We have prepared for this match and the start of the Champions League. The Ukrainian championship has already kicked off, we have played two matches – that’s a plus for us. I think the team are strong enough to win,” Marlos told Shakhtar’s website.
Monaco to travel to Bern to face Swiss side Young Boys
Last season’s quarter-finalists Monaco will go to Bern for the first leg of their tie against Swiss side Young Boys, with coach Leonardo Jardim hoping that his many new recruits settle quickly.
The principality club have sold two of their outstanding performers from last season in midfielder Geoffrey Kondogbia and winger Yannick Ferreira Carrasco.
However, seven new signings feature in the squad that has travelled to the Swiss capital, including AC Milan loanee Stephan El Shaarawy.
Celtic host Qarabag of Azerbaijan
Scottish champions Celtic entertain Qarabag of Azerbaijan in Glasgow on Wednesday hoping for a positive result before they face the marathon trip to Baku next week.
Qarabag may be an unknown quantity to most but they held Inter Milan and Saint-Etienne in the Europa League last season and also beat eventual runners-up Dnipro.
“It’s a big, big step up. We’re talking about a very good football team here who has done very well in the Europa League,” Celtic manager Ronny Deila said last week after Celtic beat Stjarnan of Iceland in the second qualifying round.
“To play at Celtic Park against 60,000 fans is the worst thing you can do as an opponent. We have to use everything we have to make a good result in the first leg.” .