Beşiktaş, Fener looking for early qualification in Europa League
MOLDE / ISTANBUL
AFP PhotoThe Spor Toto Super League’s leading duo, Beşiktaş and Fenerbahçe, return to continental duty on Nov. 26, with both looking to secure spots for the round of 32 in the Europa League.
Fenerbahçe, which suffered a 3-1 reverse in the opening game of Group A against surprised packet Molde in Istanbul, visits the Norwegian side with the aim of exacting a modicum of revenge.
A 3-1 away win in the Turkish league against Mersin İdmanyurdu thanks to goals from two of the side’s superstars, Nani and Robin Van Persie, encouraged Fener but cold weather in Norway – the mercury is expected to drop 5 degrees below zero – is a concern for the Istanbul side.
Neither Celtic nor Ajax can afford a false step when they meet in Glasgow the same night as both bid to overhaul Fenerbahçe for second place. Successive defeats have left Celtic three points adrift of the Turkish side with Ajax just one point better off, while a draw would see both sides eliminated if Fenerbahçe beats Molde.
Celtic has gone nine games in the competition without a win – three short of the record – and defender Dedryck Boyata knows there is no more margin for error.
“It’s a really important game. Our last two games [in Europe] were disappointing... We didn’t manage to be as good as we usually are. We need to be at our best,” Boyata said.
Beşiktaş, meanwhile, will look to make it 14 wins from 14 in UEFA games between Turkish and Albanian clubs when it welcomes Skenderbeu in their final Group H home match.
Beşiktaş have hit an unusual one-goal-a-game rhythm in European competition. It will go through with a win, provided Sporting Lisbon fails to beat Lokomotiv Moscow.
Jorge Jesus’ Sporting is third in the group with just four points after a comprehensive 3-0 defeat at Skenderbeu last time out extended their winless away run in Europe to 17 matches. Unbeaten Lokomotiv, who top the group with eight points, can nail down a last-32 spot with a victory.
Liverpool can clinch its place in the last 32 with victory over Bordeaux at Anfield. The Jürgen Klopp era at Liverpool is still in its infancy, but the German’s arrival is already helping transform the Reds, who thumped erstwhile Premier League leaders Manchester City 4-1 at the Etihad Stadium on Nov. 21.
“I would love to win a game like this at Anfield. That’s our next challenge,” Klopp said, having seen his side knock off champions Chelsea and City in successive away games. Bordeaux are third in Group B, three points behind Liverpool, but their record in England makes for bleak reading with five defeats in five visits and no goals scored.
Tottenham can wrap up qualification for the knockout phase with a win against Group J rivals Qarabağ, although the Azerbaijani champions are unbeaten at home in Europe this term. Conversely, Spurs have struggled on their travels and are without a win in four European away games, but confidence is high after a 4-1 demolition of West Ham over the weekend which saw England striker Harry Kane net twice to continue his red-hot goal-scoring form.
The timing of trip to Azerbaijan, however, is not ideal for Mauricio Pochettino’s side with the visit of Chelsea just three days later.
Swiss champions Basel can claim their place in the next round by completing the double over Fiorentina and former coach Paulo Sousa at St Jakob-Park. Meanwhile La Viola can do likewise with a win combined with a draw between Belenenses and Lech Poznan. The Italians relinquished top spot in Serie A over the weekend after a 2-2 draw at home to Empoli, having trailed 2-0 at half-time in Florence. Sousa admitted selection errors after leaving out Nikola Kalinic and Josip Ilicic, with the former coming off the bench for the second half and scoring twice to salvage a point.