Beşiktaş challenges unbeaten Brugge for European dreams
AA PhotoIstanbul’s Beşiktaş, which sent Liverpool crashing out of the Europa League in the Round of 32, will entertain dreams of reaching the quarters when it visits Belgium’s Club Brugge, unbeaten in 12 European games this season, on March 12.
“Now, we are going to get ready for Club Brugge,” Beşiktaş’s Croatian coach, Slaven Bilic, said over the weekend after a narrow win against Sivasspor in the Turkish league.
Club Brugge is in the round of 16 for the first time since the advent of the UEFA Cup and UEFA Europa League group stages. The Belgian side has not reached the final stages of a UEFA tournament since they made it to the last four in the 1991/92 European Cup Winners’ Cup, losing to Werder Bremen.
Beşiktaş bowed out to eventual winners Atlético Madrid at this stage in 2011/12. The Black Eagles last made it to a quarter-final in the 2002/03 UEFA Cup, when they lost to Lazio on away goals.
Beşiktaş forward Demba Ba played in Belgium for Excelsior Mouscron from 2006 to 2007. He scored eight goals in 12 league games despite missing much of the campaign with a broken leg.
Brugge’s Waldemar Sobota is one of six Polish nationals left in the competition who still have the chance of a dramatic homecoming when the UEFA Europa League final takes place in Warsaw on May 27.
The return leg falls on an auspicious date for Beşiktaş, as March 19 marks the 112th anniversary of the club’s foundation.
Prolific Belgian striker Romelu Lukaku, meanwhile, will lead Everton’s assault on Dynamo Kyiv in the last-16, first-leg tie on March 12 after scoring five times in the previous round.
Other plum ties in the Round of 16 see Wolfsburg host Inter Milan, Napoli welcome Dynamo Moscow while Fiorentina awaits Roma, with return legs to be played a week later.
The 21-year-old Lukaku is the top scorer remaining in the competition with six goals, mainly thanks to a hat-trick in the away leg and a brace at home during Everton’s 7-2 aggregate thumping of Swiss side Young Boys in the last round.
“Sometimes you need to remember the age he is, yet he is such a mature goal scorer,” said his coach Roberto Martinez, whose side have won three of their four European home ties but lie 14th in the Premier League.
The last time Everton got this far in Europe was 2007/08, when they lost on penalties to Fiorentina, but there is hunger in Everton’s attitude that sees them targeting the final in Warsaw.
Unbeaten in the competition this season, Inter is one of five Italian sides in the last 16, but they face a tough challenge against Wolfsburg who have not conceded a goal in their last three European games and are second in the Bundesliga behind Bayern Munich, which inhabits a world all to itself.
Inter have won the competition three times with successes in 1991, 1994 and 1998.
Roma beat Fiorentina 2-0 at home in Serie A this season and drew 1-1 away, meaning Rudi Garcia’s side will feel confident after winning their last away game in Europe, too.
Holders Sevilla travel to free-scoring Villareal for the battle of La Liga hopefuls. The hosts have scored 20 goals so far in the Europa league.
Dynamo Moscow is in Napoli, knowing their rivals on the night have kept five consecutive clean sheets.
Napoli coach Rafael Bentez has won the competition twice previously in 2004 with Valencia and in 2013 with Chelsea, the last English winners of the trophy.