Beşiktaş entertains Europa dreams against Olympiacos
AA photoBeşiktaş, Turkey’s sole remaining representative in European competitions, will visit Aegean neighbor Olympiacos in the first leg of a Europa League round of 16 matchup on March 9.
Four points ahead of second-place Başakşehir in the Turkish Super League, Beşiktaş is the second Turkish team in a row to face off with Olympiacos after the Greek side knocked out Osmanlıspor in the previous stage.
Beşiktaş coach Şenol Güneş famously guided Turkey to third place at the 2002 FIFA World Cup. A goalkeeper who spent the majority of his playing career at home-town club Trabzonspor, he led Beşiktaş to the 2015/16 Turkish title in his first season in charge.
The coach is now seeking continental success with most pundits arguing that the team will easily clinch the domestic title.
Olimpiacos, meanwhile, will run out with yet a new trainer in charge. Portugal’s Paulo Bento became the third coach to be sacked this season by the Greek champions on March 6 despite being top of the league.
Coming off a third straight Super League defeat just 24 hours earlier, the club said under-20 coach Vasilis Vouzas would take over on an interim basis.
Turkish media speculated that the club’s management decided to fire Bento after he invited their ire by not sending scouts to analyze Beşiktaş’s latest league game against Çaykur Rizespor. While Olympiacos remains top in Greece, they have also equaled their worst record in the league with three straight losses for the first time since 1996 and have also failed to find the net for three straight matches.
The other coaches sacked by Olympiacos this season include Portugal’s Marco Silva and Spain’s Victor Sanchez.
In three seasons with the under-20s, 51-year-old Vouzas has lost just twice in 85 matches.
Beşiktaş have scored in 16 of their last 17 European fixtures – the exception being a traumatizing 6-0 loss away at Dynamo Kyiv in its final group game in this season’s UEFA Champions League. Olympiacos, for its part, has reached the Europa League round of 16 for the first time since 2011/12, having fallen at their first springtime hurdle in the last four seasons.
The two teams are meeting for the first time in UEFA competition but were drawn together in the preliminary round of the 1958/59 European Champion Clubs’ Cup. Olympiacos withdrew due to political problems between Greece and Turkey, and Beşiktaş progressed automatically to the first round, where it lost to Real Madrid.
The clubs have contested friendly games for the last two summers; Olympiacos won 2-1 in 2015, but Beşiktaş triumphed 1-0 in August 2016.
Beşiktaş’s passionate fans will not appear at the Apostolos Nikolaidis Stadium in Athens because European football’s governing body, UEFA, will not allow away fans to attend the clash, the Turkish club announced last week.
According to a statement on the club’s official website, after Olympiacos requested the two matches be played without the attendance of away fans, both clubs agreed to ban visiting fans to avoid disturbances.
The statement added that the decision was mutually taken by both teams and UEFA for “security reasons.”