Beşiktaş back at Anfield to erase hard memories
Senegalese striker Demba Ba is the heaviest gun in Beşiktaş’s arsenal against Liverpool. AA PhotoBeşiktaş will be out to erase the painful memories of a humiliating defeat in 2007 against Liverpool when it visits the Premier League giant tonight for the first leg of a Europa League Last 32 clash.
Trabzonspor will also aim for European success and host Serie A’s Napoli.
After dropping out of the Champions League group stage, Liverpool takes on Beşiktaş at Anfield in a repeat of their meeting in the Champions League in 2007.
During the 2007-2008 UEFA Champions League group stage, Rafael Benitez’s troops – including perennial captain Steven Gerrard – thrashed Ertuğrul Sağlam’s Black Eagles 8-0 at Anfield; it remains Beşiktaş’s heaviest-ever European defeat and indeed the biggest reverse suffered by any club in the Champions League from the group stage to the final.
Beşiktaş, coached by former Everton defender Slaven Bilic, comes into the game on top of the Spor Toto Super League and buoyed by a 3-2 win against Bursaspor on the weekend, in which leading scorer Demba Ba netted a late penalty to secure all three points.
Ba has better memories than his teammates about Anfiled, as he ended the Merseyside Reds’ hopes of a Premier League title eight months ago in a Chelsea jersey, finding the net following a costly slip by Gerrard, who will probably miss both games against Beşiktaş due to injury.
“The league and the European competition are at two different levels,” Beşiktaş’s Argentine midfielder Jose Sosa told the club’s official television channel.
“We should play with much more concentration in the European games than we do in the league. We will play two games, we will either advance or be knocked out. They will be two beautiful games,” the player added.
Markovic misses match
As Cenk Gönen will replace Beşiktaş’s first goalkeeper Tolga Zengin, who was injured in the Bursa game, Liverpool must also do without Lazar Markovic, due to his four-match ban from European competition following his sending-off in the Reds’ final Champions League group game against FC Basel in December.
Beşiktaş took four points from two games against Tottenham Hotspur in the group stage but the north London club advanced to the last 32 as well and will face Fiorentina, with the first leg at White Hart Lane.
In Trabzon, the two sides will be meeting for the first time in UEFA competition; the match will also be Napoli’s first encounter with Turkish opponents.
Trabzonspor coach Ersun Yanal have serious squad woes ahead of the game.
“We have a lot of injured and suspended players; I have a squad of 14 available players,” Yanal told reporters on Feb. 17. “But this cannot be an excuse. As long as we can field 11 players on the pitch, we will be ready to get a good result,” the coach added.
Also tonight, memories of the greatest moment in Celtic’s history will be evoked when it hosts Inter Milan.
The Italian giant was the opponent when Jock Stein’s Celtic side claimed the European Cup with a 2-1 victory in Lisbon in May 1967.
Inter went on to claim the trophy in 2010 under Jose Mourinho but their present day form hasn’t been as impressive.
The Italians, who made the last 32 after topping Group F, travel to Glasgow sitting in 10th place in Serie A after a poor start to the season under former manager Walter Mazzarri before he was replaced by Roberto Mancini.
In comparison, Celtic is on track for a domestic treble and top the Scottish Premiership following a run of eight straight victories in 2015.