Beşiktaş to brave Dynamo on cold ground for best CL record ever
DHA photoWintry conditions and already-eliminated opposition will be all that stand between Beşiktaş and a date with destiny in a maiden trip to the knockout round of the Champions League when the Black Eagles head to Ukraine to take on Dynamo Kyiv on Dec. 6.
Beşiktaş, Napoli and Benfica all have everything to play for in their final pool games in CL Group B, the only group in which no side has yet secured a berth to the knockout stage.
Portugal’s Benfica, a European champion back in 1961 and 1962 during its halcyon days that has underachieved since, should have secured passage on matchday five, only to throw away a three-goal lead at Beşiktaş.
That Turkish comeback, rekindling memories of Liverpool’s historic 2005 Istanbul triumph, has left the group outcome on a knife-edge with Beşiktaş knowing that a win at eliminated Dynamo Kyiv will send it through.
In contrast, the final round of games pits Benfica against a Napoli side that beat them 4-2 back on matchday two in Italy – while Beşiktaş was dropping home points against Dynamo.
The Turkish side’s subsequent win in Italy threw the group wide open and the 14-time national champion’s refusal to surrender against Benfica means it now fancy its chances.
Beşiktaş will hope that its best previous showing – a 1987 European Cup quarter-final appearance – will not prove a poor omen. Back then, they lost 7-0 on aggregate – to a rampant Kyiv that had just won the European Cup Winners Cup the year before.
Anderson Talisca, Caner Erkin and Aras Özbiliz are on the treatment table and set to miss out for Beşiktaş.
The Istanbul side drew with archrival Fenerbahçe in a silent night away on Dec. 3 in the domestic Spor Toto Super League one week after it drew 1-1 with leader Medipol Başakşehir to remain two points behind in the table.
Their previous encounter was the thrilling 3-3 draw against Benfica.
The winner of the Benfica-Napoli clash in Lisbon will qualify as group winner, while a draw would be enough to send the latter through given their head-to-head edge. If Beşiktaş loses, both will progress regardless. A win for Beşiktaş will guarantee it passage, while a draw would even be enough – provided that Benfica defeats Napoli.
Benfica warmed up for the game by losing its unbeaten record in Portugal, slumping to unheralded Maritimo at the weekend, while Napoli broke back into the top four in Serie A when Slovakian midfielder Marek Hamsik moved to within 11 goals of Diego Maradona’s record haul of 115 goals for the club after scoring in a 3-0 romp over Inter Milan on Dec. 2.
“As far as we’re concerned, we have to go there looking for the win,” said Napoli coach Maurizio Sarri. “It will be a difficult game, but it could be two games in one. For the first 70 minutes it could all be normal, then go one way or the other in the final 20 minutes.”
Beyond the tightest group of the season, the final round of games is all about securing pole position and a theoretically softer second round draw.
It’s been tight at the top throughout in Group A where there is nothing to choose between Arsenal and Paris Saint Germen, both through and level on points ahead of final games at Basel and home to Ludogorets, both winless makeweights.
Barcelona has already won Group C at the expense of Manchester City, who nonetheless accompany the Catalan club through regardless of what happens as City hosts Celtic and Barça welcomes Borussia Mönchengladbach.
Atlético Madrid won Group D by a distance and is the only club in the competition with a perfect record as they prepare to do the double over runner-up Bayern Munich.
Rostov will look to avoid defeat at PSV Eindhoven and see their adventures carry on, albeit in the Europa League.
A minute’s silence will be held before all matches as a mark of respect for Brazilian side Chapecoense, whose squad was decimated by last week’s air crash in Colombia ahead of the Copa Sudamericana final against Atlético Nacional.
Beşiktaş’s match against Dynamo will begin at 10:45 p.m. and will be broadcast live on TRT1.