Besiktas vs Arsenal: A profile of Arsenal's Champions League play-off opponents

The Gunners are in Turkey for tonight's first leg

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The Independent Online

Arsenal face Turkish opposition in the qualifying round of the Champions League for the second consecutive season, as they dispatched Fenerbache at the same stage last term.  However, the Gunners face a different prospect this time around, with Slaven Bilic's Besiktas standing in their way.

The Turkish side finished third in the Süper Lig last season, but have benefited from Turkish champions Fenerbahce’s exclusion from European competitions over corruption, which has meant Besiktas enter the qualifying stage at a later round. Besiktas impressed in the third qualifying round victory over Feyenoord, winning both legs with an aggregate of 5-2 and will be no pushovers when they meet Arsene Wenger’s men.

Arsenal are no stranger to Besiktas’ dangerman. Having let go of last season’s highest scorers, Moussa Sow and Hugo Almeida, Bilic’s side will be looking to new signing Demba Ba to fire in the goals. After a successful period at Newcastle, in which the Senegalese scored 29 goals in 58 appearances, Ba saw his career stagnated when he signed for Chelsea. Opportunities were few and far between but he still managed a respectable 14 goals in 23 starts, including crucial strikes against Liverpool and PSG last season. Never truly trusted by Jose Mourinho though, Ba will be relishing a reunion against Premier League opposition as he looks to reignite his career in Turkey. With a point to prove, Ba got off to the perfect start as he hit the ground running with a hat-trick in only his second game for Besiktas.

In addition to Ba, there are two other familiar faces in Besiktas’ ranks, Turkish internationals Oguzhan Ozyakup, a product of Arsenal’s youth academy, and Kerim Frei, who used to ply his trade for Fulham. Others that pose a threat are striker Mustafa Pektemek, midfielder Atiba Hutchinson and youngster Gokhan Tore, with the Turkish side possessing an arsenal to hurt the Gunners.

 

Besiktas’ shining moment in the Champions League came when they reached the quarter finals in 1987, however in their last five campaigns, they have failed to get out of the group stage, with the last time they competed in the competition being the 2009/10 campaign. The Turkish side have played 66 Champions League games, winning 22, drawing 12 and losing 32 of them. They have enjoyed mixed fortunes against Premier League sides. In 14 games against English opposition, they have won just four, drawing three and losing the other seven. Undoubtedly their most famous victory came at Old Trafford in 2009, when they ended Manchester United’s 23 match unbeaten run by winning 1-0. However, they have been on the receiving end of crushing defeats, losing 8-0 to Liverpool in 2007 and 6-0 to Leeds in 2000.

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