Beşiktaş, Trabzon eye berths in Europa League last 16 stage
Beşiktaş’s combative midfielder Manuel Fernandes (R) vies with Braga’s Ruben Amorim during the two teams’ first leg meeting in the UEFA Europa League round of 32. Fernandes is one of the four Portuguese players at Beşiktaş to face their compatriots against Braga tonight when the two teams play at the Fiyapı İnönü Stadium in Istanbul. AFP photoTwo Turkish teams, Beşiktaş and Trabzonspor, will be hoping to advance to the round of 16 in the Europa League tonight.
Beşiktaş is a comparably comfortable situation as it welcomes Braga after beating last year’s finalists 2-0 in the first leg last week.
Trabzonspor will have a rocky path since the Turkish runner-up will take on PSV after losing 2-1 at home to the Dutch.
Beşiktaş’s Braga meeting is likely to be an all-Portuguese match, as it was last week, since the Istanbul side boasts a handful of Portuguese players, including internationals Ricardo Quaresma, Hugo Almeida, Manuel Fernandes and Simao Sabrosa.
It will be an emotional match for Carlos Carvalhal as well, since the Beşiktaş coach had several stints as both player and manager at Braga.
Meanwhile, eyes will be on Manchester United again, since the English champion is an unfamiliar name on the second-tier European club competition.
Sir Alex Ferguson is ready to hand a first start to Paul Pogba as the Manchester United manager prepares to ring the changes for their Europa League return leg with Ajax.
The Premier League Champion holds a comfortable two-goal lead from the first meeting with the Dutch club, and with the weekend’s difficult trip to Norwich City on the horizon, Ferguson will rest several of his senior players while remaining fully confident of sealing progression to the last 16.
Among those set to come in is Pogba, whose future at Old Trafford remains in doubt after the breakdown of negotiations over a contract extension for the French teenage.
The midfielder, signed from Le Havre in 2009, has made just four substitute appearances this season since his elevation from the youth ranks at Old Trafford.
Three of those arrived in the League Cup, and one, in the 2-0 victory against Stoke City in January, in the Premier League.
Despite his so far infrequent use of the the 18-year-old, Ferguson remains keen for Pogba, part of Manchester United’s FA Youth Cup winning side last season, to stay at the club long-term.
The player is of the same mind, but will first seek assurances he will be given a regular run in the side before committing himself.
Pogba is likely to be afforded a chance to impress in the home leg against Ajax, with the experienced trio of Paul Scholes, Ryan Giggs and Michael Carrick all set to be rested.
It means Pogba is likely to form a central midfield partnership with Tom Cleverley, the England Under-21 international who returned from a four-month injury lay-off to figure in the first leg victory in Amsterdam, which was secured with goals from Ashley Young and Javier Hernandez.
The winners will face either Athletic Bilbao or Lokomotiv Moscow for a place in the last eight as Ferguson’s side acclimatize to competing in Europe’s second tier competition for the first time since 1995.
The manager refuses to look too far ahead, however, and the Scot insisted: “We’re not taking anything for granted of course, but being at home in the second leg, the opportunity to go through is a big one. We were very ordinary at times in the first leg, but we have to be delighted with the scoreline.”
Meanwhile, Wayne Rooney will miss the match with Ajax after picking up a throat infection.
“Wayne is out tomorrow,” said Ferguson. “He has a really bad throat. There were traces of it in Amsterdam and we gave him some medication but it got worse.”