Beşiktaş plays against Maccabi in Tel Aviv in the Europa League tonight, hoping to guarantee a spot in the 32nd round of the competition.
The Black Eagles are second in Group E, just behind Stoke City, and can punch their ticket to the next round if they can win in Israel and third-place Dynamo Kyiv loses in England.
Beşiktaş hosted Maccabi in Istanbul on the opening day of the group Sept. 15. The home team was dominant from the start to the finish and trounced its opponent 5-1.
The sport of football in the game was overshadowed by then-escalated tensions between Turkey and Israel. The game at Istanbul’s İnönü Stadium came amid deepening tensions between the two countries after Israel refused to apologize for a raid on a Gaza-bound ship last year that killed nine activists, prompting Turkey to expel top Israeli diplomats, cut military ties with the country and vow to send Navy vessels to escort aid ships to Gaza in the future.
There were calls to UEFA, European football’s governing body, to reschedule the game at a neutral venue, but the Turkish government assured Maccabi of its safety, and there was no crowd trouble or hostility toward the Israeli side as some feared.
Unlike the first match, the political context of the game was not highlighted by the Turkish media, giving Beşiktaş the opportunity to focus solely on the sport.
Maccabi looks to be the second favorite to win the match, but it can count on Beşiktaş’s fixture filled with important matches.
Beşiktaş played its Istanbul-based rival Galatasaray on Nov. 20 in a heated match and will play against runner-up Trabzonspor on Nov. 27 in the Turkish league.