Meeting one of the competition hosts, Italy, at Stadio Olimpico on Friday evening, the one-time World Cup semi-finalist will take a squad with an average age of just under 25 years – many of whom are yet to reach their peak – into almost certainly their toughest game of the group phase.
Gunes has prioritised instilling some substance into the Crescent-Stars defence, and can choose from Juventus prospect Merih Demiral, Leicester City’s lynchpin Caglar Soyuncu, Liverpool loanee Ozan Kabak and Kaan Ayhan, of Serie A side Sassuolo, in the centre – though the former pair are expected to start.
Like Demiral and Ayhan, Milan playmaker and dead-ball wizard Hakan Calhanoglu is a regular in the Italian top flight, and has been the creative fulcrum in Turkey’s midfield for several years. As he often prefers to cut in from the left, he may start out wide with license to roam, as the visitors set up in a probable 4-1-4-1 formation.
If a 3-4-3 is deployed, however, Ayhan could make the team sheet, but it is more likely that the XI which starts on Friday will closely correspond with that picked for the final warm-up match versus Moldova last week.
Out wide, meanwhile, Roma winger Cengiz Under – returning to the Olimpico after a largely fruitless time in the Premier League last season – will compete with Kenan Karaman for a berth on the right, though Abdulkadir Omur is also an outside contender.