AGONA Profile: Trabzonspor, the dangerous Turks ready and waiting for AEK
The AGONA Profile takes a closer look at Trabzonspor, who will play against AEK in the 2019/2020 UEFA Europa League qualification playoffs.
The challenge starts right here. While AEK could afford to play average football against Universitatea Craiova, they will have to be in much better shape to defeat Trabzonspor, a team which certainly fancies its chances of qualifying for the group stage of a continental tournament for the first time in five years.
Trabzonspor have already beaten a strong side to reach the playoffs. In the third qualifying phase, the Turks were pitted against Europa League regulars Sparta Prague, and they were two goals down at one point in the Czech Republic. Nevertheless, after recovering to salvage a crucial 2:2 draw on the road, Trabzonspor then slayed their tricky opponents with a nervy 2:1 victory in Turkey.
Formed in 1967, Trabzonspor are considered one of the leading teams in Turkey, even if they haven’t realistically challenged for the Super Lig title for a number of years. Trabzonspor last won a trophy in 2010, claiming both the Turkish Cup and Super Cup. However, in the past, they have become Turkish champions on six occasions and regularly competed in UEFA competitions.
This is the maiden European campaign for Trabzonspor in four years. In the 2014/2015 season, Trabzonspor were involved in the Europa League qualifiers, but they suffered a shock loss to Rabotnicki. The Turkish club competed in the group phase of the 2011/2012 UEFA Champions League, and while they failed to qualify for the knockout stages, they did manage to tally one victory against Internazionale in that particular season. It’s worth noting that they have never played against a club from Greece in an official match.
Trabzonspor were the “best of the rest” of the 2018/2019 Super Lig. In fourth position of the standings, the Trabzon-based organisation finished a huge 16 points ahead of fifth-placed Yeni Malatyaspor, trailing champions Galatasaray by six points. Their supporters are known for creating an intimidating atmosphere at home and, unfortunately for AEK, they have the luxury of hosting the decisive second leg. The first will take place inside an empty Olympic Stadium in Athens.
Full name: Trabzonspor Profesyonel Futbol Takımı
Founded: August 2, 1967
President: Ahmet Ağaoğlu
Head coach: Unal Karaman
Stadium: Medical Park Stadyumu (Capacity 43,223)
Major honours won: 6 Super Lig titles (1976, 1977, 1979, 1980, 1981, 1984), 8 Turkish Cups (1977, 1978, 1984, 1992, 1995, 2003, 2004, 2010), 8 Turkish Super Cups (1976, 1977, 1978, 1979, 1980, 1983, 1995, 2010)
Unam Karaman has been at the Trabzonspor helm since June 2018. In the past, Karaman was the assistant coach and sporting director at Trabzonspor, and he also spent nine years with the organisation as a player between 1990 and 1999. Karaman competed in 36 matches with the senior Turkish national team before retiring in 2000.
The 53-year-old has previously coached the likes of Adana Demirspor, Ankaragucu, Konyaspor, Kardemir Karabukspor and youth Turkish national teams. Karaman coached the senior Turkish national side for one match in 2004 as interim manager.
Now 34 years of age, Jose Sosa is well past his prime, but the talented Argentinian keeps Trabzonspor ticking in midfield. Once on the books of Bayern Munich, Napoli, Metalist Kharkiv, AC Milan and Atletico Madrid, Sosa offers a touch of class in the middle of the park, providing an effective link between defence and attack. The fact that he scored five goals and tallied four assists in the 2018/2019 Super Lig speaks for itself. Sosa has been a Trabzonspor player since January 2018.
Remember when John Obi Mikel was an important midfield figure for Chelsea? Mikel spent 11 successful years in London between 2006 and 2017, but it must be said that the Champions League and Europa League winner is now approaching the twilight zone of his playing career. This summer, the 32-year-old Nigerian defensive midfielder left Middlesbrough in favour of Trabzonspor, and he did play in the two games against Sparta Prague. Mikel carries vital experience of major European fixtures on his shoulders.
Czech full-back Filip Novak will provide a threat to the AEK defence with his forades on the left flank. Novak, 29, transferred to Trabzonspor from Midtjylland in January 2018 and is a reliable performer for the Turks. In the second game against Sparta Prague, he popped up with the winning goal in the dying moments of stoppage time, finding space on the counterattack with the Czechs out of position. Novak is also capable of playing anywhere across the defensive line.