Black Eagles take on Feyenoord in Champions League qualifiers
Beşiktaş midfielder Veli Kavlak tries to get past two Mainz players during the two teams’ friendly match in England. AA PhotoBeşiktaş plays against Feyenoord in the Champions League third qualifying round tonight, in a bid to return to the top-level European club competition for the first time in five years.
The Black Eagles visit the Rotterdam side in the first leg, hoping to get a good result before next week’s return game at the Atatürk Olympic Stadium in Istanbul.
Slaven Bilic’s men finished the Turkish league on third spot last season, but were given a berth in the qualifying thanks to a UEFA ban on Fenerbahçe, the Super League champion.
Another Turkish team, Galatasaray, has won automatic qualification to the Champions League after finishing the Super League on second spot.
Zenit Saint Petersburg, Panathinaikos, Feyenoord, Lille and Celtic are among the 13 sides joining the competition in the third qualifying phase.
Even if it manages to advance to the next round, the road to the Champions League is still rocky for Beşiktaş, since five more clubs, including Premier League side Arsenal, two-time former winners Porto, Napoli, Athletic Bilbao and Bayer Leverkusen, will enter in the subsequent play-off round with the victors of those 10 ties advancing to the group stage.
Beşiktaş has last played in the Champions League in the 2009-2010 campaign, after winning the Spor Toto Super League.
Former Rangers man faces Celtic
One of the most intriguing battles tonight will be the Legia Warsaw vs. Celtic game.
Former Rangers defender Henning Berg is aiming to claim the scalp of Celtic when his Legia side take on the Scottish champion.
Ex-Norway international Berg, 44, spent the 2003/04 campaign, the final season of his career, with Celtic's Old Firm rivals and is looking to guide Polish title-holders Legia back to the Champions League group stage for the first time in 19 years.
"They are a step ahead of us, because they play regularly in Europe but for us it's an interesting test. I expect two close meetings," said Berg ahead of the first leg in the Polish capital.
"We have the opportunity to progress if we play to our full capabilities. Motivation will not be a problem and I have it in abundance with Legia.
"We will do everything we can to win this week and if I can make the Rangers fans happy with that, then of course I'd be happy too," added Berg, who won the 1999 Champions League with Manchester United.
Celtic swept aside Icelandic champions KR Reykjavik 5-0 on aggregate in the previous round but coach Ronny Deila expects a far sterner challenge against Legia, who are already two games into their domestic season.
"It's going to be a difficult match against Legia, but every opponent is difficult now," said Deila, who took over from Neil Lennon last month.
"Legia are much stronger than KR Reykjavik and it's a step up."
Midfielder Liam Henderson, 18, made his European debut in last week's 4-0 second leg win over Reykjavik and says Celtic will head to Poland full of confidence.
"It will be tough, and it'll be a different atmosphere in Poland, but the manager will have a plan and we'll just stick to that and hopefully we'll get the result," he told the club’s magazine, Celtic View.
The Hoops are still over two weeks away from their Scottish Premiership opener at St Johnstone and slid to a 1-0 defeat against second-tier German outfit St. Pauli at the weekend.
However, they will be boosted by the return of striker Anthony Stokes who missed the return leg against Reykjavik at Murrayfield.
The Glasgow giants will again play next week’s second leg at the home of Scottish rugby in Edinburgh with Celtic's Parkhead stadium still out of commission due to the Commonwealth Games.