Reigning Süper Lig champion Trabzonspor faces one last hurdle on its way to the UEFA Champions League as it faces FC Copenhagen in the playoffs first leg match Tuesday.
The Black Sea Storms, who won its first Turkish title in 38 years last season, has made a great start to the 2022-23 season, winning the Turkish Super Cup. It thrashed Ziraat Turkish Cup winner Sivasspor 4-0 in the traditional season opener in Istanbul last month.
Trabzonspor then kicked off its Süper Lig title defense with a 2-0 win over newcomer Istanbulspor on Aug. 5.
The Turkish champion, under coach Abdullah Avcı, has brought in attacking midfielder Enis Bardhi from Levante and defender Marc Bartra Real Betis to boost its roster for the new season.
Both players might make their debut for their new side after being named in the squad announced for the Copenhagen match.
Trabzonspor, however, will be with two key players in Slovak midfielder Marek Hamsik and Bosnian Edin Visca, who had to undergo surgery on his arm after getting injured in the domestic season opener.
Hüseyin Türkmen and Serkan Asan will also miss the playoff first-leg match through injury.
The match in the Danish capital will kick off at FC Copenhagen’s home Parken Stadium at 10 p.m. Istanbul time (7 p.m. GMT) and will be officiated by English referee Michael Oliver.
The second leg of the match will be played in northern Turkey’s Trabzon on Aug. 24.
Famous clubs line up
The last stage of the Champions League qualifying will also see some famous European names line up to grab the last one of the last six group slots and the check that goes with it.
Benfica, who won the European Cup in 1961 and 1962 and has reached the final five times since then, faces Dynamo Kyiv.
While Benfica coach Roger Schmidt worries whether Alex Grimaldo will recover from the dizzy spell that forced him off in Saturday’s 1-0 league win at Casa Pia, the Ukrainians made clear they have weightier concerns.
The game will be in Lodz, where Dynamo is in exile following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
When the squad returned to training in Poland after winning in Austria to eliminate Sturm Graz in the previous round, the club’s website made clear that this is more than a football game.
The players, it said, “realize they keep fighting for the honor of the country by adding points to the UEFA rankings table.”
“All Kyivans miss home and look forward to the return to Ukraine, but the fact that they give our nation and warriors positive emotions makes them leave emotions behind. They have a single goal – to go through to the Champions League group stage.”
The two clubs met in the group stage last season.
It drew 0-0 in Kyiv in the opening round, Dynamo’s only point. The Portuguese side won 2-0 at home in the last round to edge Barcelona for second in the group.
Returning to the group stage this year offers a hefty reward.
Each club is guaranteed 15.64 million euros ($16.04 million) for taking part. They can also collect 2.8 million euros for every group stage victory and 930,000 euros for a draw. Teams that miss out, drop to the Europa League group stage where they are guaranteed 3.63 million euros.
PSV Eindhoven, who needed an extra-time goal to eliminate Monaco in the previous round, faces Rangers.
Ruud van Nistelrooy, who replaced Schmidt as coach at the 1988 European champions, faces old international teammate and club adversary Giovanni van Bronckhorst, in Glasgow on Tuesday.
‘It’s not easy’
The two coaches were long-time Netherlands teammates.
They played on opposite sides the last time the clubs met in the Champions League.
Rangers, with Van Bronckhorst in midfield, won home and away in the 1999 group stage. Van Nistelrooy scored PSV’s goal at Ibrox as Rangers won 4-1.
“We are ready,” declared van Bronckhorst after a 4-0 league win over St. Johnstone on Saturday.
“We have two days to prepare and make the players fresh again and make sure we have our game plan in mind and execute the game plan as best as possible.”
“It is a big game for us.”
The third former champions in action are 1991 winners Red Star Belgrade, who visits Maccabi Haifa on Wednesday.
The Israelis surged through the last round by scoring three times in the last 30 minutes for an eye-catching 4-0 second-leg victory at Olympiacos.
Red Star coach Dejan Stankovic, a Champions League winner playing for Inter Milan, told Serbian media he was impressed calling Macabbi “a quality team in every area. I couldn’t fault with them.”
“It won’t be easy. It is not easy to enter the Champions League,” he said.
FC Copenhagen (DEN) vs. Trabzonspor (TUR)
Bodo/Glimt (NOR) vs. Dinamo Zagreb (CRO)
Rangers (SCO) vs. PSV Eindhoven (NED)
Qarabag (AZE) vs. Viktoria Plzen (CZE)
Dynamo Kyiv (UKR) vs. Benfica (POR)
Maccabi Haifa (ISR) vs. Red Star Belgrade (SRB)