By Ryan Kelly
|With a newly elected president and a brand new coach it is not easy to predict how Trabzonspor will perform on the pitch. The team have yet to play a pre-season friendly and will have only completed a series of regular training sessions before the clash.
Interestingly, coach Mustafa Akcay has not included such names as Didier Zokora, Sol Bamba, Emerson, Marek Sapara, Marek Cech and Marc Janko, players who were regulars last season under coaches Senol Gunes and Tolunay Kafkas. The club's new board wants to renovate the team and those six foreigners are expected to leave the squad this summer.
So far they have signed Aykut Demir, a centre back from Genclerbirligi, Batuhan Karadeniz, a forward from Eskisehirspor, and promoted some youngsters from their B team. Furthermore, they recently completed the signing of Florent Malouda from Chelsea. On the departures side, Halil Altintop and Serkan Balci, two important first team players from last season have left the club after their contracts expired.
Trabzonspor is the fourth biggest club in Turkey and they are known for shattering the domination of the Istanbul sides, but that is history now. The club have not won the league since 1984 and their last great group of players fell short in 2010-11 season, having finished only second to Fenerbahce. However, they claim to have full rights on that league title as the match-fixing situation involving Fenerbahce has made the Turkish football enviroment chaotic ever since.
Some of that great players of 2010-11 team such as Selcuk Inan, Burak Yilmaz, Engin Baytar and Umut Bulut are all playing for league champions Galatasaray now. And this summarises the club executives' inability to hold on to their star players as Trabzon is not as major a city as Istanbul.
Derry City's qualification for the Uefa Europa League comes as a result of their stunning FAI Cup triumph during the 2012 season, and the Candystripes have replicated that form this year, where they have established themselves as serious title contenders under Declan Devine. Currently third in the Airtricity Premier Division and challenging in two domestic cup competitions, Devine's charges have been invigorated with a sense of cohesion and self-belief this season.
Nevertheless, the second qualifying round clash against Turkish side Trabzonspor represents a stern test of the squad's capabilities. Devine is well aware of the magnitude of the encounter and played down expectations ahead of the game. "We are under no illusions - it is a very difficult task," he told the BBC. "We are playing a top side. They have a tremendous tradition in European competition. But Derry have had some great achievements in Europe and this is a great opportunity for this current team to make a bit of history."
The Foylesiders enter the tie with Trabzonspor without their captain, Kevin Deery, who has been ruled out of the game with a calf injury. There are also concerns over the fitness of top-goalscorer Rory Patterson, who is suffering from a back complaint, while attacking midfielder Patrick McEleney is also nursing an injury.
Declan Devine will be relying heavily on the leadership and experience of midfield duo Barry Molloy and Ruaidhri Higgins, while Republic of Ireland under-21 international Barry McNamee and full back Simon Madden can provide a crucial creative spark in attack. The return of 2012 top goalscorer David McDaid from York City is also a boost, but if Derry are to get anything from the first leg at the Huseyin Avni Aker Stadium, then they will first look for a solid defensive foundation from players such as Stewart Greacen, Ryan McBride and goalkeeper Gerard Doherty.
For many in the youthful Derry City squad, this Europa League match-up with one of Turkey's top clubs represents their first experience of European club football, so they may enter the occasion with a feeling of trepidation. However, as Declan Devine has noted, the players can take inspiration from Derry's momentous run in the 2006-2007 Uefa Cup, when the club defeated Swedish giants IFK Goteborg and Scottish side Gretna in the qualifying rounds before narrowly bowing out in the first round against Paris St-Germain.
Ultimately, the aim for Derry City in the first leg will be to keep the tie alive for the second leg in the Brandywell, where an upset is certainly conceivable. With Trabzonspor enduring a period of transition, arising out of financial instability and upheaval of personnel, Declan Devine's cohesive unit can capitalise, but they must remain cautious and focused playing against a full-time side in difficult conditions.