|Ferencváros is looking forward to some exciting weeks. In the Europa League, which starts on Thursday, the Green and Whites will be the guests of renowned clubs, and the fans are expected to create a great atmosphere in the Groupama Aréna in the group matches against Trabzonspor, Crvena Zvezda, and Monaco. (Photo: Szilvia Micheller)|
The group stage of the Europa League starts on Thursday, and Ferencváros will be able to play in the main draw of a European cup for the fourth time. In our compilation, we present the Green and Whites' opponents. It's worth pointing out that three of the four teams will be in competition in the spring: The first-placed team of each group advances to the final eight, the second-placed teams play in the round of 16 of the UEFA Champions League, and the third-placed teams in the groups will continue in the Europa Conference League.
Reinforcement from Spain
Ferencváros will start the Europa League group matches against one of the paradigm-changers of Turkish club football, Trabzonspor. It was the first club to break the domination of the Istanbul trio (Beşiktaş, Fenerbahçe, Galatasaray) in the Süper Lig, which was organized in 1959.
The club was founded relatively late – in the second half of the 1960s – in two phases. First, three amateur clubs merged as Trabzonspor on June 21, 1966, but Trabzon's richest club of history, İdmanocağı, was left out of the originally red-and-white colored entity. Therefore, the team failed to fully rally the city's fan base. After spending the 1966-1967 season in the second division, İdmanocağı filed a lawsuit against the club. The following summer, Trabzonspor was first disbanded only to be reestablished in an unexpected twist: with the addition of İdmanocağı on August 2, 1967. The club has been using the claret-blue colors ever since.
The team remained in the second division until 1974 when they were promoted to the topflight with a league title. Then, it didn't take long for the club to enjoy its first golden era: between 1975 and 1984, Trabzonspor won six league titles and three cups. and six Super Cups, breaking the hegemony of the Istanbul giants.
ABOUT – TRABZONSPOR
Stadium (capacity): Senol Günes Spor Kompleksi (40 782)
Head coach: Abdullah Avci (2020-)
The club's biggest achievements: 7-time Turkish champion (1976, '77, '79, '80, '81, '84, 2022), 9-time Turkish Cup winner (1977, '78, '84, '92, '95, 2003, '04, '10, '20), 10-time Turkish Super Cup winner (1976, '77, 78, '79, '80, '83, '95, 2010, '20, '22)
Trabzonspor's veteran, Marek Hamšík, is expected to be a priority for Ferencváros players on Thursday (Photo: Imago Images)
The club did well in the mid-1990s and early 2000s, but the coveted league title didn't come among the cup victories until last season when Abdullah Avci's side outclassed everyone in the Süper Lig.
At the break of 38 years of fasting, the Black Sea city of Trabzon's population of about 300,000 has almost doubled with just as many celebrants. The accommodation in neighboring towns and cities was full, and the number of flights into the city tripled...
The team and the supporters were of course very much preparing for the Champions League group stage in the fall, but Köbenhavn proved to be the better side in the league leg of the qualifying play-offs.
The strength of the squad is shown by the fact that midfielder Ahmetcan Kaplan was sold to Ajax for almost €10 million in the summer, and new transferees, such as Marc Bartra from Betis and Maxi Gómez from Valencia, have cost €19 million. The biggest signee is perhaps the former club favorite, Yusuf Yazıcı, a Turkish national team player on loan from Lille. Former Newcastle man Enisz Bardi also joined in the summer, and of course, Marek Hamšík, who signed last season, needs no introduction.
The Serbian autocrat
“Zvezda is life, and the rest are little things,” this was the motto Dejan Stanković said to bid farewell to the team on August 26. The resignation of the coach, who played for Inter in Milan and Lazio in Rome, had nothing to do with the fact that his team was grouped with Ferencváros, Monaco, and Trabzonspor in the Europa League. He decided to leave minutes after the draw because Zvezda failed to qualify for the Champions League group stage at the third attempt under his leadership.
After his irrevocable resignation, Miloš Milojević was appointed to the post, having served as Dejan Stanković's right-hand man at the club from 2019 to 2021. The new coach's debut went well, as he got the job done with a 4-1 win over Javor, but then two draws followed. The first draw was against Partizan and the second one was against Bačka Topola, after which the coach said he was responsible for not being able to defeat TSC at the Rajko Mitić Stadium.
Founded 77 years ago, the club's greatest success came in 1991 in Bari, when it beat Marseille in a penalty shoot-out in the European Cup final. Crvena zvezda has won the Serbian Super League five times and the Serbian Cup twice in the last five years, and in the 2019-2020 season, the team qualified for the Champions League group stage, although was beaten by Bayern Munich and Tottenham by nine goals in two games. And despite the win over Olympiacos, the squad finished last in the group with a goal difference of minus 17.
The team's most valuable player is 28-year-old Mirko Ivanić, who is involved in almost every attack and is a key figure in the team. He even played against Maccabi and Partizan despite his injury. In addition to him, 21-year-old Strahinja Eraković is a pillar of the defense line while Ghanaian Osman Bukari can disrupt opposing defenders in the right wing. And the fanatical fans, who are creating one hell of an atmosphere in Belgrade, cannot be overlooked either.
ABOUT – CRVENA ZVEZDA
Stadium (capacity): Rajko Mitić Stadium (53 000)
Head coach: Miloš Milojević (2022-)
The club's biggest achievements: European Cup winner (1991), World Cup winner (1991), 33-time Yugoslavian/Serbian champion (1946, '51, '53, '56, '59, '61, '64, '68, '69, '70, '73, '77, '80, '81, '84, '88, '90, '91, '92, '95, 2000, '01, '04, '06, '07, '14, '16, '18, '19, '20, '21, '22), 28-time Yugoslavian/Serbian Cup winner (1948, '49, '50, '58, '59, '64, '68, '70, '71, '82, '85, '90, '93, '95, '96, '97, '99, 2000, '02, '04, '06, '07, '10, '12, '21, '22), 2-time Yugoslavian Super Cup winner (1969, '71)
Wissam Ben Yedder and Kevin Volland (Photo: AFP)
Advancing is the minimum
The Principality is clearly the ace of the group: it comes from the strongest league. The estimated squad net worth (€342.6 million) is almost €100 million more than their three rivals combined.
In terms of past international successes, Monaco is behind Zvezda and FTC, as no major European trophy has been put on display at the Stade Louis II. However, it was very close to it twice: in 1992, the team reached the final of the UEFA Cup Winners' Cup, and in 2004, the final of the UEFA Champions League. And on the domestic front, the club also has eight Ligue 1 victories and five French Cup wins to its name... Among the league successes, the most recent gold medal in 2017 is noteworthy. The club, with the help of Kylian Mbappé, won while still in the PSG era in Qatar.
So, it's not easy for Monaco to climb to the top at home, and after five years of winning the title, the club is in a slump (finished 17th in 2019 and 9th a year later). In 2020, with the arrival of Niko Kovač, the team found its feet again: finished third with the Croatian coach, and when the working relationship got “tired,” Philippe Clement from Belgium was hired in January this year. He took the squad back to the top of the Ligue 1 podium.
It's another matter that the team preparing for the main round of the Champions League lost to PSV in the third qualifying round. However, the fact that Monaco is on a different level from the rest of the Europa League is proven by selling Aurélien Tchouaméni to Real Madrid for €80 million and Sofiane Diop to Nice for €22 million. It brought in over €100 million in the summer transfer window, which was enough to strengthen the squad.
In addition to Mali national team player Mohamed Camara from Salzburg being a one-to-one replacement for Tchouaméni in defense and attack, he is already the subject of praise – Monaco fans voted him the team's best player after the 1-1 draw against PSG.
Among the new faces, Japanese left-winger Minamino Takumi from Liverpool and Swiss national team striker Breel Embolo from Mönchengladbach are also worth mentioning. As for the goal scorers, there is plenty to choose from as Kevin Volland of Germany and French player Wissam Ben-Yedder, who has scored 45 league goals in the last two seasons, are still strengthening the Red and Whites.
If not qualifying for the Champions League is a failure for this Monaco team, elimination from the EL group would be considered a disaster.
ABOUT – MONACO
Stadium (capacity): Stade Luis II (16 500)
Head coach: Philippe Clement (2021-)
The club's biggest achievements: 8-time French champion (1961, '63, '78, '82, '88, '97, 2000, '17), 5-time French Cup winner (1960, '63, '80, '85, '91), 4-time French Super Cup winner (1961, '85, '97, 2000), French League Cup winner (2003)