Beşiktaş ready to stop Napoli in Champions League
AA photoBeşiktaş is aiming to halt Napoli from achieving historical success when the two clubs meet in Naples in a Champions League Group B game on Oct. 19.
The Italian side could become the first team in the Champions League history to qualify from its group after only three games, providing welcome relief from its recent troubles.
A victory over Beşiktaş, in addition to a draw in the other Group B game between Dynamo Kiev and Benfica, would guarantee last season’s Serie A runner-up a place in the last 16 for only the second time.
Beşiktaş, sitting in second place in the Spor Toto Super League, drew its opening two games in the group and is undefeated in all games this season, apart from losing against to Galatasaray to penalties in the Turkish Super Cup.
Back in the competition for the first time since the 2009-2010, Beşiktaş was buoyed by a 1-0 win against Kayserispor on Oct. 15 to maintain the club’s best domestic start in last five seasons.
The trip to the Stadio San Paolo will be particularly special for the Beşiktaş midfielder Gökhan İnler, who previously played for Napoli between 2011 and 2015.
“I had four wonderful years at Napoli,” İnler told an Italian television station.
“I’ll be delighted to see my former teammates and people I know, even if I am in the opponent team now. I’m playing for the club I’ve dreamed about since my childhood and we will travel to San Paolo for a defeat,” he added.
However, the 32-year-old has vowed not to celebrate, even if he scores.
Napoli, undefeated in its last 18 European matches, secured six points from its first two games despite a 4-2 home win over Benfica three weeks ago, when it scored four times in less than an hour.
Maurizio Sarri’s side has lost both Serie A games it has played since dropping to fourth place in the table and falling seven points behind the leader Juventus.
The club’s striker Arkadiusz Milik is suffering a long-term knee injury and does not have a replacement yet.
Manolo Gabbiadini was given the job against AS Roma on Oct. 15 but the 25-year-old failed to make an impact and was jeered off when he was substituted after 57 minutes in the 3-1 defeat.
Another alternative would be to field Belgian international Dries Mertens as a replaced number nine, a role he performed when he substituted Gabbiadini against Roma.
“Dries does these things well, it’s a role he can play but of course we can’t expect him to be a center-forward in the traditional sense,” Sarri said.
Napoli was playing flowing football early in the season but the plaudits have dried up as quickly as the goals for Sarri, who is facing criticism for failing to rotate his squad.
His players labored on a warm afternoon against Roma, prompting critics to question why he is not giving more fringe players a chance.
Midfielders Marko Rog and Amadou Diawara have yet to get on the field since they were signed in the close season. While forward Emanuele Giaccherini has played a total of 19 minutes since he was signed from Sunderland.
Nineteen-year-old Diawara’s absence is especially surprising as he cost Napoli 14 million euros from Bologna.
Also on Oct. 19, Pep Guardiola will be returning to Barcelona, the club where he won twice in the Champions League as both player and coach, when his Manchester City team travels to Spain for a Group C match.
Barcelona has won 12 straight Champions League games at home and with Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar are all primed to play.
Crucial for City, playmakers Kevin de Bruyne and Sergio Aguero will be fully fit after two draws and a defeat in their last three games. Captain Vincent Kompany also looks set for a start.
Gerard Pique, in the news this week for his controversy in the Spain game and his ambitions to become Barcelona’s coach, has also scored three goals in the last three games.
Guardiola’s players drew with Everton on the weekend.