After a 25-year absence from European football’s top table, Ferncvaros has made a respectable return to the Champions League so far. An opening day 5-1 reverse at Barcelona, a result that somewhat flattered their more illustrious opponents, was followed by a spirited 2-2 draw at home to Dynamo Kiev in match day two.
Now, as match day three approaches, Ferencvaros are ready to welcome Juventus, the Grand Old Lady of Italian football, to the Puskás Aréna as the hosts go in search of another valuable point, or three.
With UEFA currently limiting the number of fans allowed entry into European fixtures, Ferencvaros has taken the step of giving up the ‘home’ advantage of playing at their own Groupama Arena, for the larger capacity on offer at the Puskás Aréna.
Circa 20,000 noisy and boisterous fans, almost the entire capacity of the Groupama, will be in attendance on Wednesday night to cheer on the Green Eagles as they go in search of an historic, if unlikely, victory.
Labelled as underdogs throughout the Champions League qualifying rounds, Ferencvaros are no strangers to defying the odds. In fact, had lethal Norwegian forward Tokmac Nguen held his run against Barcelona for a fraction of a second longer, and his ensuing goal not therefore been ruled out for offside, then who knows if another upset may have been on the cards in the Nou Camp.
The Norwegian talisman will be key once again for Fradi on Wednesday night, if as expected, he is asked to lead the line for Ferencvaros. Quick, direct, capable of doing the unexpected and scorer of numerous spectacular goals already this season, Tokmac is the undoubted dangerman in the Fradi ranks.
Behind him, midfield general Igor Kharatin will be asked to cajole another high-level and disciplined performance out of defensive team-mates. The Ukrainian has excelled this season with his reading of the game and calmness on the ball a key highlight in the European games thus far.
However, possibly the most important player for Ferencvaros will be goalkeeper Denes Dibusz. Like his outfield colleagues, Dibusz has raised his game to another level in Europe this season. A keeper who previously looked like he always had a clanger in him, Dibusz has provided an assured and confident last line of defence in the games up to now. A monumental last minute save against Molde to secure qualification to the Group Stages his defining moment.
As anyone who has watched Sergiy Rebrov develop his Ferencvaros side over the last two seasons will know, the success of his team is built around defensive organization and tactical discipline; with his flair players given a license to attack opposition defences with pace and skill.
Being the underdog does not phase Rebrov or Ferencvaros, it is something they now thrive on in the European arena.
Speaking at Tuesday’s pre-match press conference, Rebrov said:
The match against Dinamo Kiev, especially in the second half, can give players confidence. Everyone knows we’re playing against top teams in Europe, but my players are 100 percent ready for that. We are physically fit, well prepared, everyone really wants to test themselves against players like Cristiano Ronaldo, whom I really hope will be on the field tomorrow.
Old Lady, New Era
Juventus. One of the biggest names in world football, the club hardly needs an introduction.
The Italian 9-in-a-row Champions come to Budapest as over whelming favourites, yet in indifferent form under new manager, the legendary midfield playmaker, Andrea Pirlo – who’s coaching license thesis and philosophy of the game can be read here.
Whilst still undefeated domestically, Juve has drawn three of their opening six Serie A games and suffered a comprehensive 2-0 home defeat against Barcelona in matchday two of the Champions League.
However, with a squad bursting full of world-class talents such as Cristiano Ronaldo, Chiellini, Dybala, and precocious young talents like Weston McKennie and Federico Chiesa, it really is hard to see past the Old Lady walking away with the three points.
Speaking at Tuesday press conference, Pirlo was respectful of his opponents:
“We analyzed Ferencváros, where we watched the previous matches, it is clear they didn’t get into the Champions League undeservedly. Ferencváros played a strong match against Dinamo Kiev, I saw that the Hungarian champion has a great defense, as well as fast strikers and wingers. We must respect the opponent, because at this level all rivals are the same, no one should be underestimated.”
Blast from the past
If you are looking for inspiration and hope of a Ferencvaros victory, then look no further than the 1965 Inter-Cities Fairs Cup Final played in Turin between Juventus and Ferencvaros.
Underdogs that night, just as they will be on Wednesday, Ferencvaros recorded a famous 1-0 win thanks to a 74th minute strike from Máté Fenyvesi.
Could history repeat at the Puskás Aréna?