The minarets of the mosques which jostle for space in skyline of the cramped Asian half of Istanbul will have some company on Wednesday. At 6ft 4in each, Kennet Anderson and Tore Andre Flo are two strikers who threaten to infringe Turkish airspace every time they go for a high ball. Yet, for Fenerbahce and Rangers, these two towering Scandanavians could decide just how crowded the horizon is over the next few months. To the winner goes a calendar stuffed with Champions' League dates, to the loser a parachute into the Uefa Cup which will scarcely compensate either club.
With this intriguing qualifying tie balanced on a knife-edge after the 0-0 draw at Ibrox 10 days ago, the clamour for tickets in Istanbul is fierce. Galatasaray may now be the best known of Turkey's sides abroad, but it is the blue and yellows who hold sway inside the country, claiming an estimated 25 million fans around Turkey.
Only 30,000 of those will be able to find a seat in the Sukru Saracoglu Stadium on Wednesday, the only one of the football-mad metropolis's ground to occupy the far side of the Bosphorus, and currently undergoing reconstruction to see it live up to Fenerbahce's aspirations. On the field, though, it is the vertiginous Andersson who symbolises those dreams.
The Swede was bought from Bologna last summer as part of a £15m transfer spree sanctioned by the club president Aziz Yildirim and given a four-year contract worth £10m. Now it is time for man who was dubbed The Tower by supporters when he played at Bari – another of his clubs in a seven-year spell in Italy – to pay his way.
The same might apply to Flo. The Norwegian striker has yet to convince the Glaswegian public that he was worth the £12m record Scottish fee that Rangers paid to Chelsea last November: if Dick Advocaat's side miss out on the lucrative Champions' League, then the Ibrox club may wish to cut their losses and offload Flo back to the English Premiership, where he has already been linked with a move back to West London and Jean Tigana's Fulham.
Flo endured a miserable time at Ibrox in the first leg, but Rangers have often obtained far better results away from home in Advocaat's three-year reign. Successes at Bayer Leverkusen, Monaco and PSV Eindhoven are three reasons why Advocaat is not scared of the stalemate halfway through this tie.
"We had to change our system in the first game because we had so many players injured," said the Rangers manager on Friday. "But a 0-0 result is not a bad one. The most important thing was not to concede a goal. Now things will be different over there. We don't underestimate Fenerbahce because they are a good team, with excellent technical players and they have not lost a game at home in over a year. But they did not see the real Rangers."
Advocaat's counterpart, Mustafa Denizli, reckons he did, Indeed, the bullish Turkish coach was so big-mouthed after the Ibrox encounter that his putdowns may come back to haunt him. "Everyone saw that we played the more creative football, Rangers have no chance in Istanbul" boasted Denizli. "I analysed Rangers very well and everyone saw how well I did it. In fact, we had more chances to win the game and we have not lost a game at home for a season so I expect my team to take their place in the Champions League"
Advocaat relishes the challenge of the Sukru Saracoglu Stadium. "They say the noise is worse than Galatasaray, where we played last season, but we can handle that. The atmosphere can make home teams nervous as well and Fenerbahce have no secrets from me," smiled the Dutchman, who has been making use of expatriate Turkish contacts in Holland to keep tabs on the tie.
Indeed, Denizli has now banned his players from talking to not only the press about the Rangers tie, but to each other. Andersson retired from international football in April to achieve a similarly focused attitude.
"I enjoy Fenerbahce a lot," he says. "It is an exciting exotic place to be, Istanbul feels like the biggest city in Europe." On Wednesday, Rangers hope that, for Fenerbahce fans, it just feels like the end of the world.Reuse content