Arsenal vs Besiktas: Seven reasons why Arsenal could suffer a Champions League upset

We take a look at why the Gunners are far from certain of progressing in Europe

Click to follow
The Independent Football

Arsenal play host to Besiktas on Wednesday desperate to avoid a humiliating Champions League upset.

The Gunners should be confident of going through against their Turkish opponents, but having only managed a 0-0 draw in the first-leg, progress into the group stage of Europe's elite competition is far from certain.

Ahead of the Champions League play-off second-leg, we take a look at a few reasons why the Gunners must be wary heading into the game at the Emirates.

1. Injuries

Arsenal fear that their main striker, Olivier Giroud, could be out for a few months after damaging his ankle. The exact time-frame on his return is not known, but it has been confirmed he will play no part against Besiktas. In addition, captain Mikel Arteta and left-back Kieran Gibbs are unavailable for the match.

2. Ramsey red card

Perhaps even worse than those missing through injury is the suspension of Aaron Ramsey. The Welshman is quickly becoming the Gunners' talisman but two bookings for tugging on the shirts of Besiktas' players during the first-leg saw him given a red card that rules him out of the game at the Emirates. Already this season, Ramsey has got the Gunners out of a couple of scrapes - with an injury time winner against Crystal Palace and one of the two goals in the comeback against Everton on Saturday. Should Arsenal need a saviour on Wednesday, they'll have to look elsewhere.


3. Form

Alexis Sanchez could be charged with leading the line against Besiktas but if his first try-out in the lone striker position is anything to go by, Arsenal fans could be forgiven for feeling concerned. The Chile international was completely ineffective against Everton and was substituted at half-time. Yaya Sanogo is another option, although not 100 per cent fit. The overall form of Arsenal has not been impressive this term, with late goals needed to pick up a win against Crystal Palace and a draw against Everton in the Premier League so far this term. Speaking ahead of the match, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain said of the first-leg against Besiktas: "I think the fluidity in the first-leg performance wasn't at its highest, it wasn't a terrible performance but I think we're capable of more going forward."

Sanchez was taken off after 45 minutes at Goodison Park


4. Fatigue

It's been a busy start to the campaign for Arsenal. Having needed to fight to the death against Crystal Palace on the opening day, they then travelled to Turkey for the first-leg of this play-off. They were then at it again for the full 90 minutes against Everton, only scoring the equaliser in the last minute of normal time. Wenger can at least take solace that their next game after this isn't until Sunday, when they play Leicester.


5. Slaven Bilic

If you didn't know where the heavy-metal loving, chain smoking Slaven Bilic is currently working - hopefully after the first-leg, now you do. The hippest manager in football will be plotting Arsenal's downfall and while some of his stock may have disappeared since his time in charge of Croatia, there's no denying he knows how to cause an upset. During his time as national coach, Bilic masterminded two victories over England and was almost single-handedly responsible for making Steve McClaren look a wally. Could he be embarrassing Wenger next?

Slaven Bilic looks on from the touchline


6. Besiktas

Besiktas weren't too shabby in the first-leg and perhaps should have found the net with Demba Ba going close on a couple of occasions - including his effort that struck the bar straight from kick off. The quality of the Turkish side was perhaps highlighted by the fact they became the first side in 13 Champions League play-off matches to stop Arsenal from winning. Having not started their domestic campaign yet this season, Besiktas should be feeling fresh too.

Demba Ba was Besiktas' chief threat throughout the first-leg


7. Previous upsets

Arsenal might never have lost to a Turkish opponent on home soil, however Besiktas have travelled to England before and left with the spoils. They beat Chelsea in 2003 and Manchester United in 2009, with both games in the Champions League. Oxlade-Chamberlain warned: "We need to defend well to start off with and the main thing is to match them physically and competitively because they are going to come at us hard because they really want to qualify for this."