Beşiktaş-Braga promises an All-Portuguese clash
A UEFA representant checks a bowl as the draws are made in the top two football competitions in the UEFA headquarters in Nyon, Switzerland. AFP photoAn all-Portuguese clash is expected when Beşiktaş meets Braga, since the two teams were pitted against each other when the Round of 32 draws are made in the Europa League.
Trabzonspor, the other Turkish team in the competition, will meet PSV Eindhoven of the Netherlands.
The Round of 32 will be played over two legs on Feb. 16 and 23 next year, with the Round of 16 on March 8 and 15.
Boasting several Portuguese players and a coach from the same country, Beşiktaş will not be unfamiliar with Braga when the two teams meet next year.
Beşiktaş has star wingers Ricardo Quaresma and Simao Sabrosa, along with striker Hugo Almeida, midfielder Manuel Fernandes and young player Julio Alves in its squad. The Black Eagles has also loaned Bebe from Manchester United, but the promising forward was seriously injured and yet to make a competitive debut at Beşiktaş. He might make his return in February to face last season’s Europa League semifinalists.
However, the most dramatic face-off is likely to be of Carlos Carvalhal’s. Beşiktaş coach spent most of his playing career at Braga before starting his coaching job. The 46-year-old was hired as an assistant coach to Tayfur Havutçu earlier this year, but was named the caretaker manager after the Turkish coach was jailed pending trial as part of an ongoing match-fixing case.
Havutçu was released from jail pending charges earlier this week, but it is yet unknown when he would take over the coaching job.
There will be no love lost when Trabzonspor will meet PSV. The Black Sea Storm will play in the Round of 32 for the first time in its history after finishing its Champions League group in third spot. Trabzonspor was placed behind Inter Milan and CSKA Moscow to be relegated to the Europa League.
The Black Sea Storm performed above expectations in its debut season in the top-level European competition, but its fatigue was translated into a poor performance in the domestic league, as admitted by coach Şenol Güneş. Trabzonspor is now 10th in the Spor Toto Super League, 10 points behind leader Galatasaray.
Beşiktaş will face the winner of the tricky Lazio vs. Atletico Madrid tie if it can overcome Braga, while Trabzonspor will take on the winner of the Stoke City vs. Valencia match-up if it can beat PSV.
In other key match-ups, holder Porto will face Premier League leader Manchester City while former European champions Ajax Amsterdam will meet Manchester United.
All four teams were in the Champions League and dropped down to the Europa League and were, oddly, the first four teams out of the bag when the draw was made at UEFA’s headquarters.
The final will be in Bucharest on May 9.
Meanwhile, defending champion Barcelona got the luck of the draw on and will play Bayer Leverkusen in the last 16 of the Champions League.
As Barcelona avoided a long trip to Russia in freezing cold February temperatures, that arduous task fell to rival Real Madrid, which will play CSKA Moscow.
“For us, the most important thing is not to play in Russia, for the temperatures and the distance,” Barcelona director Amador Bernabeu told The Associated Press.
APOEL Nicosia, the first Greek Cypriot team to make it to the knockout rounds of the Champions League, will meet Lyon, while other Russian side in the tournament, Zenit St. Petersburg will meet Benfica.
“We must not speak only of luck,” Lyon president Jean-Michel Aulas said. “APOEL have been exceptional in the first round and drew all three of their away matches.”
The draw also set up a pair of Italy-England clashes. Arsenal will face AC Milan and Chelsea was drawn to play Napoli.
Also, it was: Marseille vs. Inter Milan and FC Basel vs. Bayern Munich.
The first legs will be played Feb. 14-15 and 21-22, with the return matches scheduled for March 6-7 and 13-14.
With the two Russian teams unseeded after finishing runner-up in their groups, two seeded teams were sure to be sent on the long journey north.
“It will be a key factor. The weather and the temperature, we’re not used to that,” Madrid director Emilio Butragueno said. “We have to be very careful.”
On Feb. 21 in Moscow, Madrid can expect to find temperatures at the Luzhniki Stadium close to minus-15 degrees Celsius. At that point, UEFA guidelines allow the match referee to consult with teams and decide if the game should be played.
Additional reports from Reuters and AP were used in this story.