Unbeaten Beşiktaş out to overtake Benfica
AA photoTurkey’s Beşiktaş will put its unbeaten record in the Champions League on the line on Nov. 23 when it hosts Portugal’s Benfica at its Vodafone Arena Stadium.
Beşiktaş is just a point adrift of the top pair, Benfica and Napoli, heading into the last two matchdays in the group.
The Turkish defending champion is looking to get out of the pool phase for the first time in six attempts and their fans are sure to give Benfica a hostile reception.
Beşiktaş’s plan against Benfica largely depends on Portuguese international Ricardo Quaresma, who is now bidding to become the club’s best-ever foreign scorer in European competition, sitting two goals behind Brazil’s Bobo, who scored 12.
A win against Benfica would bring Beşiktaş to nine points, which would be a record in the competition for the club. A Black Eagles side coached by Mircea Lucescu collected seven points in the 2003-2004 season – including a memorably 2-0 victory over Chelsea at Stamford Bridge – but the team failed to advance out of the group.
Beşiktaş is well-motivated following a relatively easy victory over Adanaspor in the domestic Super Toto Super League, but missed chances angered coach Şenol Güneş.
A Benfica victory would take the two-time champion through to the knock-out phase, but the Lisbon side cannot afford complacency against Besiktaş after the Turkish side secured a last-gasp draw in Portugal on matchday 1.
Napoli will also be fighting for the group lead when it welcomes Ukrainian champions Dynamo Kyiv, whom it defeated with a comeback win on the first day of the competition. Dynamo currently sits marooned at the bottom of the Champions League group with a single point.
Napoli’s 2-1 win over the weekend at Udinese kept them in touch with the top four in Serie A, though prolific striker Arkadiusz Milik is still out injured. Lorenzo Insigne grabbed a brace at Udinese and the Italians will be looking to him and Jose Callejon to fire it past Dynamo.
The highest profile game on the last day of week five is the clash between Arsenal and French plutocrats Paris Saint Germen.
The pair has already booked passage to the knockout phase.
The Londoners could look to Olivier Giroud, who rescued a point from the bench at Old Trafford, to spearhead their attack after Alexis Sanchez played through hamstring trouble. As Arsenal drew with Manchester United to leave them fourth in the Premier League, PSG warmed up for the game with a fourth straight win, 2-0 over Nantes, as it chased down French leader Nice.
PSG’s Old Trafford misfit Angel Di Maria scored against Nantes but came off in the first half with a thigh injury, although he is still expected to play.