Injury-hit Beşiktaş to play Ajax in Champions League
The Istanbul club’s long injury list includes star midfielder Miralem Pjanic, who recently arrived on loan from Barcelona, experienced defender Domagoj Vida, key attackers Michy Batshuayi and Alex Teixeira, as well as Welinton, Atiba Hutchinson, Georges-Kevin N’Koudou, Rachid Ghezzal, Mehmet Topal and Cyle Larin. Spanish defender Francisco Montero will also be out after a positive COVID-19 test.
Besides its injury woes, Beşiktaş has also been struggling on the pitch. The team surrendered a three-goal lead to be held to a 3-3 draw by Adana Demirspor last week in a mid-week game, while it lost 2-1 over the weekend against Altay with a late goal.
Coach Sergen Yalçın is aware that tough times are ahead for his squad.
“The injuries might be the result of the busy schedule or the problems with the pitches we are playing on,” the former Beşiktaş player said after the Altay loss.
“Injuries can happen at any time. Too many [injuries] came at an early stage of the season. We are going through a difficult process. There is nothing to do; we have to create solutions,” he added.
While Beşiktaş is running through a tough period, Ajax has come into Sept. 28’s game in a fine run of form, having won its last six games in all competitions and scoring 29 goals in that time. The Dutch also made a rampant start to their Champions League campaign, thrashing Sporting Lisbon 5-1 in an away game with Sebastian Haller scoring four goals.
It was a remarkable Champions League debut for the 27-year-old Ivory Coast striker, the first player to score four goals in his maiden appearance in European football’s flagship club competition since Marco van Basten for AC Milan against IFK Göteburg in 1992.
“I remember when Marco van Basten did it, and he is one of the greatest players in the history of the game,” Ajax coach Erik ten Hag said.
“That proves how historic a performance it is from Sebastien, but it is also a reflection of his qualities. It’s not just his physique but also his positioning and his finishing, and you also need to be really strong mentally to be able to do that,” he added.
The other match in Group C pits Borussia Dortmund against Sporting Lisbon.
Elsewhere in the Champions League, Real Madrid faces Sheriff Tiraspol on the back of a 1-0 win away at Inter Milan that already appears to have put Carlo Ancelotti’s team in charge of Group D.