The Turks have never scored, let alone won, against England, and are unlikely to improve that record here, if a 0-0 stalemate with the Sammarinese three weeks ago is any sort of form guide.
After four defeats in six games in Group Two, Piontek fears the worst, that 4-0 drubbing at Wembley in November still fresh in his mind. Had he really made the pilgrimage to Ephesus? 'Yes - to ask the gods for help,' chuckled the pipe-smoking German, between puffs.
He accepted that the great manager in the sky helped those who helped themselves, and Turkey will be relying on a new strategy, as well as the power of prayer.
It had been a costly mistake, Piontek admitted, not to man-mark Paul Gascoigne last time, when the flatulent one scored twice and ran the game with what was probably the most authoritative of his 23 international appearances. The Turks will not allow him the same freedom again.
'Gascoigne, Gascoigne, Gascoigne - all you ever ask me about is Gascoigne,' said Piontek, exploding in mock annoyance. True, but not without reason, as the smiling Sepp readily acknowledged. 'We know we must stop him playing if we are to have any chance. He is the one who makes things happen - the one who does the unpredictable things. Without him, it is all passes back and long balls forward. He takes England on to a different plane.'
Would tight marking be enough to stop him? Probably not. 'We must hope he catches a cold as well.'
Gazza the Clown seemed to be doing his best to oblige yesterday, when he prostrated himself in a puddle on the cabbage patch the Turks gave England to train on, and got up looking like the Creature from the Black Lagoon.
Not that there is much risk of catching cold in this Turkish bath on the shores of the Aegean, where the daytime temperature is into the seventies.
In Graham Taylor's case, the sweating is being done on the fitness of Les Ferdinand, who is due to win his second cap. The Queen's Park Rangers striker, who made a scoring debut in the rout of San Marino last month, is receiving treatment for a hip injury and, like David Batty (knee), pulled out of training yesterday.
Taylor, already deprived of nine players, including six forwards, confessed to being 'worried', but the likelihood is that Ferdinand will be fit enough to retain his place.
The team, to be formally announced today, will show changes at left-back, where Andy Sinton is in for Tony Dorigo, in midfield, where Paul Ince displaces Batty, and, most notable of all, in attack, where Ian Wright's return is at the expense of his friend and mentor, John Barnes.
The deployment of Sinton, a winger, at full-back might be seen as a gamble in some quarters, Taylor said, but the manager did not view it as such. 'Andy is a stable lad,' he said, talking mentality rather than profession. 'He has played there for England before, against the CIS last season, and I'm confident he will be able to cope. Basically, all we're asking him to do is move his starting position 25 yards deeper.'
It is a view of modern full-back play to make Ray Wilson and George Cohen weep, but against the Turks, who were goalless against Poland (0-1) as well as England and San Marino away, Andy should be handy enough. 'Our problem is that we don't take our chances,' Piontek said. 'That's what we must learn to do.'
ENGLAND (probable): Woods (Sheffield Wednesday); Dixon (Arsenal), Adams (Arsenal), Walker (Sampdoria), Sinton (Queen's Park Rangers), Ince (Manchester United), Palmer (Sheffield Wednesday), Platt (Juventus), Gascoigne (Lazio), Wright (Arsenal), Ferdinand (Queen's Park Rangers).
Paul Gerrard, the Oldham goalkeeper, Aston Villa's Neil Cox, and Everton's Billy Kenny make their debuts for the England Under-21 side in today's European Under-21 Championship qualifier against Turkey in the Alsancak stadium, Izmir.
ENGLAND UNDER-21: Gerrard (Oldham); Jackson (Everton), Small (Villa), Hall (Southampton), Ehiogu (Villa), Clark (Newcastle), Cox (Villa), Sutch (Norwich), Kenny (Everton), Sutton (Norwich), McManaman (Liverpool).
Ryan Giggs, the 19-year-old Manchester United forward, is expected to make his full debut for Wales against Belgium tomorrow, after five substitute appearances. The Welsh, who need to win the World Cup qualifier at the Arms Park, Cardiff, to stay in contention in Group Four, have called up Oxford United's Andy Melville after the loss of Portsmouth's Kit Symons with an ankle injury. Belgium will field Alex Czerniatynski, of Antwerp, in place of Anderlecht's Luc Nilis, who injured his ankle in training on Friday.
BELGIUM: Preud'homme (Mechelen); Medved (Ghent), Grun (Parma), Albert (Anderlecht), Smidts (Antwerp), Staelens, van der Elst (both Club Bruges), Boffin (Anderlecht), Scifo (Torino); Degryse (Anderlecht), Czerniatynski (Antwerp).
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