Beşiktaş takes on daunting task against Arsenal
Beşiktaş players are seen during a traning session ahead of tonight’s Champions League playoff game against Arsenal. AA PhotoBeşiktaş will assume its difficult task of qualifying for the Champions League group stage tonight when it welcomes Premier League giant and perennial continental challenger Arsenal to Istanbul’s Atatürk Olympic Stadium.
The Istanbul side knocked out Feyenoord of the Netherlands in the third qualification round with 2-1 away and 3-1 home victories, but it will have a mountain to climb against Arsenal, which has advanced to the lucrative group stage of Europe’s elite club competition all six times it played an elimination round and is seeking a 17th consecutive campaign in the tournament.
The game, which will kick off at 9:45 p.m. local time, will be Beşiktaş’s 167th match on the European stage. In the past 166 games, the Istanbul club has won 62, lost 74 and drawn 30, scoring 210 goals and conceding 241.
Slaven Bilic’s side, which finished third in the Turkish Super League last season and gained a place in the Champions League preliminaries thanks to a ban imposed by UEFA on champion Fenerbahçe over match-fixing charges, does not begin its domestic campaign until later this month, although it was the convincing winner against Feyenoord, with former Chelsea striker Demba Ba scoring a hat-trick in the second leg. Second-placed Galatasaray qualified directly for the group stage in Fenerbahçe’s stead.
“Arsenal has some of the best players in the world but we have seen on many occasions that talent doesn’t necessarily mean a team will win,” said the Croatian Bilic, who played in England for West Ham and Everton.
The Gunners followed up a convincing victory against Manchester City in the Community Shield with a 2-1 win over Crystal Palace on Aug. 16 in its opening Premier League game, in which Aaron Ramsey netted a late winner.
“We want to be in the Champions League group stage. Beşiktaş had a convincing result against Feyenoord, and so for us we have the luck to play the first game away,” said Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger.
Meanwhile, Ramsey admitted that Arsenal will need to improve on their performance against Palace, although he lauded the contribution of Wenger’s summer recruits in that match.
“I think they have started really well. We were really solid at the back with [Mathieu] Debuchy and [Calum] Chambers, who were playing as if they’d been there for the last three years,” he said, referring to two summer signings. The club also added Chilean star Alexis Sanchez from Barcelona, as well as David Ospina, the number-one goalkeeper for the neutral’s favorite at the World Cup, Colombia.
Arsenal would settle for a repeat of 12 months ago, when they beat another Istanbul side, Fenerbahce, 3-0 on the Asian side of the Bosphorus on the way to a 5-0 aggregate triumph.
The pick of the ties elsewhere tonight sees Napoli, knocked out of the group of death containing Arsenal last season, entertain Athletic Bilbao. Germany’s Bayer Leverkusen goes to FC Copenhagen, Salzburg hosts Swedish champion Malmö, while Bulgarian upstart Ludogorets travels to Steaua Bucharest in an all-Balkan affair.
The remaining five play-off first legs will also be played tomorrow, with the return fixtures to come in the middle of next week.
Beşiktaş fan group bids to prepare record-breaking placard
Beşiktaş football club’s most famous supporter group, Çarşı, has announced that it will open the largest hand-made placard ever at Atatürk Olimpiyat Stadium during the Istanbul side’s Champions League preliminary game against Arsenal tomorrow.
The group said on Twitter Aug. 17 that a number of members have been working on the placard, without mentioning any dimensions.
A large eagle figure, the symbol of the black and whites, was seen on a part of the placard’s photo, also published on the network.
Heavy rain on Aug. 17 hampered efforts to prepare the assertive placard.
It might include an emphasis on Süleyman Seba the team’s legendary former chairman who passed away Aug. 13.
Çarsı is known for its cunning placards, slogans and chants, which are not limited to football.