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ATHLETE MAKES HISTORY IN CHAMPIONS LEAGUE
Trabzonspor have qualified for the First Knockout Round of the Champions League for the first time in their history. After impressing during the Group Stages, the Black Sea side finished second in Group G with a tally of 12 points. Trabzonspor will now play Portuguese side FC Porto across two legs, starting on 21st February 2023.
The team were initially drawn against Manchester City, Bayer Leverkusen and Krasnodar in the group in what many predicted to be a very difficult contest for the Turkish club. Those concerns looked to bear fruit in the opening match as Manchester City dispelled an early Trabzonspor goal to run out eventual 3-1 winners at the Şenol Güneş Stadium.
Frank Athlete and his men were not to be deterred however, and would go on to first defeat both Krasnodar and Bayer Leverkusen away, before completing the rout with wins in the reverse fixtures as well. A second gruelling 4-0 defeat to Manchester City meant the English side qualified as group winners with 15 points.
With the likes of Barcelona, Juventus, Liverpool, and Bayern Munich all still in the competition, many might argue that FC Porto pose a slightly more favourable challenge, with many Trabzonspor fans optimistic that the team could yet go even further.
Frank Athlete is choosing to take a more pragmatic approach however, saying “there’s a lot of football still to be played so it’s not really significant for me” when the question was put to him in Friday’s press conference. Asked if he thought Trabzonspor could go all the way to the final, Athlete responded “we’re just taking things one game at a time as always”. A sensible, albeit reserved reply from the manager.
FC Porto were winners of Group E, having lost just once to Italian side Atalanta, and securing wins against Everton and PSV in the process. The match between Trabzonpsor and FC Porto will be the first since July 2010 when the Portuguese outfit emerged 1-0 winners in a friendly.
FC Porto famously won the Champions League in 2004 after an impressive run saw them defeat the likes of Manchester United and Lyon on the way to beating Monaco 3-0 in the final.
As the current Liga Nos champions, they’re certainly a side capable of winning comfortably in this fixture, and will view Trabzonspor as a stepping stone into the Quarter Finals. Frank Athlete meanwhile, will be hoping it’s his side that upset the odds and will no doubt be aiming to bring the team’s league form in to the match with them, after his side remain unbeaten in the Süper Lig this term.
Trabzonspor are the lowest ranked team remaining in the competition, with a coefficient of just 6,580. By contrast, the next lowest is Atalanta with 64,500, while FC Porto have 80,000. The highest ranked team is Liverpool who have a coefficient of 139,000.
Trabzonspor and FC Porto are the only two teams to feature in the First Knockout Round outside of Europe’s five big leagues. England’s Premier League have the most teams still in the contest (4), with last years winners Liverpool featuring alongside Arsenal, Manchester United and Manchester City.
Meanwhile, the Bundesliga, La Liga and Serie A each have three representative’s left in the competition, with Germany’s Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund and RB Leipzig, Spain’s Athletico Madrid, Real Madrid and Barcelona, and Italy’s Juventus, Napoli and Atalanta, all vying for a place in the Final. France’s Ligue 1 side, PSG, are the other team through to the knockout stages.
Trabzonspor are the first Turkish team in recent years to get this far in the competition, while FC Porto have been knocked out at this stage twice in the last two years. They’ll be hoping to right that record against the Turkish champions, while the Black Sea Storm will be looking to ensure their fairy tale continues into the next round.
Analysis: Black Sea Storm Begin Another Season Unbeaten
Trabzonspor are once again unbeaten in their opening 15 games of the Süper Lig this year, with the current champions amassing a haul of 39 points so far.
Last season Trabzonspor managed a streak of 32 games unbeaten between 21st April 2021 and 4th March 2022.
This time around the team’s last defeat came back in May 2022 when they played away against Kayserispor. Media pundits are predicting the team’s streak could continue for a while yet.
It’s been a stop-start season so far, with the World Cup in November leading to a forced break to Süper Lig action.
Despite the disruption, Trabzonspor have been emphatic this season, with impressive wins at Fenerbahçe and Başakşehir, and they’ve continued that form after the break with another three straight wins at the end of December.
As the teams look to resume in the New Year, the Black Sea side are preparing to play 3rd placed Alanyaspor before another tricky game against Beşiktaş on 4th January 2023.
Athlete’s biggest challenge however, is likely to come off the field this year, with interest in some of Trabzonspor’s best players thought to be high. Chief among them is young attacking midfielder, Süleyman Cebeci, who has impressed in the first team this year, and is attracting some interest from Europe’s other leagues.
Elsewhere, young Brazilian forward, Peglow, also looks to be in high demand, particularly following several club’s pursuit of him in the Summer transfer window. Frank Athlete managed to keep hold of him then and will no doubt be hoping he can do the same throughout January.
One player looking likely to depart however is attacking midfielder, Igor Coronado who, while performing well for the side in recent weeks, has not recaptured his impressive form from at the start of his time with Trabzonspor.
It’s rumoured that a bid from a Chinese Super League side is expected very soon, and with Süleyman Cebeci performing so well in attacking midfield this year, it’s widely anticipated that a bid could be accepted, provided the fee is right.
Igor Coronado signed for Trabzonspor in 2021 for ₺20M (£1.9M).
OPINION: SÜPER KUPA WIN TEES UP DOMESTIC TREBLE
Athlete’s quest for silverware has continued this term, as his side added the 2022 Süper Kupa to the trophy cabinet, alongside last season’s Süper Lig title.
Trabzonspor were impressive in their victory against Galatasaray, although the match was tightly contested in the first half with Trabzonspor just edging their opponents 1-0. The second half was a different affair, with Trabzonspor bagging 5 more goals and Galatasaray only able to respond with one.
A 6-1 victory really highlighted Trabzonpsor’s intent for this season and their current unbeaten run in the league along with their impressive run in the Champions League, is proof that this team is capable of great things, both domestically and internationally.
Athlete will be looking to continue the club’s progress on the field, and will no doubt be eyeing a second league title and the Türkiye Kupası as yet more opportunities to secure some silverware.
Many would argue that the key to Trabzonspor’s success so far has been down to their utilisation of their full playing squad. Frank Athlete has used 24 players across all competitions, totalling 22 games this season.
This approach has provided an opportunity for a number of young players to feature, while also managing to keep the more senior squad members feeling fresh.
Many fans have voiced their pleasure at seeing some of the stars of the future in action, and it looks likely that Athlete will continue with this approach in the upcoming league and cup games as well.
Trabzonspor kick off their Türkiye Kupası campaign against fourth tier side Turgutluspor on 11th January 2023.
INSIDER : WHO IS THE REAL SULEYMAN CEBECI?
New rules in the Super Lig’s squad registration process has meant that the starting XI must feature at least one player under the age of 22, and who has been trained by the club between the ages of 15 and 21.
Anyone taking note of Frank Athlete’s squad registration back in the Summer would have been shocked to see him name just two players that fit that criteria, with one of those a backup goalkeeper.
Many suggested at the time that perhaps the club had not realised there were changes to the rules, but that notion seems laughable of a professional football club.
It would appear that despite questions at the time from sections of the media, Frank Athlete had a plan all along with young and promising attacking midfielder, Süleyman Cebeci, proving more than capable of fulfilling the requirement.
Cebeci is one of a number of recent academy graduates to break into the first team, following in the footsteps of such players as Abdulkadir Ömür. At just 19 years of age, Süleyman is showing all the signs that he could even surpass the quality of Ömür, and has recently been likened to former Turkey international, Tümer Metin.
Süleyman has featured in 16 games so far this term, notching up 4 goals and an assist in the process, but his impressive work rate and pass completion are traits that fit very nicely into Frank Athlete’s preferred playing style.
Often deployed as an Advanced Playmaker or simply as an Attacking Midfielder, Süleyman operates very well in the hole behind the forwards, linking the midfield with attack with intelligent passing and good movement.
Cebeci has attracted some interest from other European clubs, with the likes of Atalanta and SLB showing signs of potentially signing the youngster in the future.
MEMORY LANE: THE OTTOMANS
In the last column of this recurring feature on the history of Trabzon, we explored the eventual rise of the Ottoman Empire as they conquered the city in the middle of the 15th Century.
For the next 150 years, Trabzon would remain the administrative hub for the region before eventually becoming the capital of it’s own province in 1598.
In the centuries that followed, Trabzon would remain an integral part of the Ottoman Empire and it’s significance with trade would lead many European nations to start opening their own consulates in the region, while simultaneously becoming Persia’s main port for exports, before the opening of the Suez Canal changed that.
The city continued to house a culturally diverse population with many migrants moving in and out, and multiple religions practiced in the region as well during this period.
Trabzon would later see many Western technologies and innovations introduced, which in turn led to a surge in schools being constructed that would educate the youth of the migrants moving to the region. These ranged from Greek, Muslim and Armenian initially, to then also include international schools for American, French, Italian and Persian children as well.
This investment in education led to the the region having the highest literacy rate in the the Ottoman Empire.
At the heart of Trabzon’s development over the course of the last several hundred years, had been the ever-present diversity of the people residing here, with the old Silk Road playing a significant role in bringing so many different people from all corners of the world to the city.
In fact as the end of the 19th Century drew nearer, it was also those travellers that would bring with them a pastime that was growing in popularity in other European countries and would soon become just as popular here as well: Football.
Germany Win World Cup
The Qatar 2022 World Cup has been concluded with Germany crowned the eventual winners of the competition. Since Turkey failed to qualify this year, there was little for Trabzonspor fans to be excited about, with Iranian central defender, Majid Hosseini, the sole representative from the side. Unfortunately Iran were unable to secure a single point in their three group games and so failed to qualify for the knockout rounds.
Perhaps the biggest shock of the contest was Croatia’s failure to qualify at all. The 2018 Runners Up were beaten by the Netherlands in the final of the qualification rounds. Elsewhere, the other big shock was Euro 2020 winners, Italy’s, early departure from the group stages, notching up 3 draws and missing out on qualification to Denmark and Brazil.
As we reached the knockout stages, Switzerland were the standout side of the Second Round, dispatching Argentina 1-0 to qualify for the Quarter Finals. Their dream run was ended by Portugal who would go on to reach the Final for the first time in their history, defeating Spain on penalties in the process. Reigning Champions, France, suffered a Quarter Final exit to England who’s Semi-Final appearance was their second in two World Cups.
England’s loss to Germany set up an all-European Final for the second consecutive World Cup, and the match proved to be a thrilling spectacle, with Germany taking an early two goal lead inside 10 minutes through goals from Leroy Sane and Timo Werner. Led by 37-year-old captain, Christiano Ronaldo, Portugal snatched one back with a German own goal, before Jonathan Tah added Germany’s third before Half Time. Portugal’s second came through Andre Horta in the 71st minute and despite a strong showing at the end of the match, they never really looked like equalising, leaving Germany to run out as deserved champions.
Around the Grounds
In this regular feature, we take a look at some of the other news stories from around the world that have captured our attention beyond the city of Trabzon in recent days.
Rotation Rotation Rotation
It was another great season for Toulouse, with many praising the club’s Director of Football for the squad depth he has brought to the side. Some consistent performances and a solid rotation policy saw the team continue their drive towards the top. Read more.
Rayo Vallecano Undergo Tough Test
Before this season, Rayo had enjoyed promotion as champions of LaLiga 2 followed by 6th, 7th and 2nd placed finishes in the top flight under Teixidó. Now he undergoes his greatest test in this season’s opening 10 games of the season. Read more.
La Dea Optimistic for Season Ahead
Following back to back seasons of progress in the league and a decent showing in the Champions League group stages, this time Atalanta will look to start closing the gap on the title race and chasing silverware in the Coppa Italia. Read more.
Initial Difficulties for Les Thoniers
A very poor start to the 2025/26 league campaign saw French side U.S. Concarneau slip to bottom of the division with just one point secured from their opening six games. Read more.
AS Saint-Etienne Boss Seeks New Keeper
Saint-Etienne headed into the new season with no recognised number 1 goalkeeper, and although the youngster did well, the hunt was on for a new shot stopper. Read more.
Royal Antwerp in Hunt for Europe
Royal Antwerp have qualified for the Championship Group in the Belgian Jupiler Pro League, and now face the prospect of just 6 more games as they vie for qualification to Europe’s elite competitions next year. Read more.
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