Besiktas quality makes O'Leary wary

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The Independent Online

If a week is a long time in politics, a fortnight in football is an eternity. No-one who saw Leeds United trudge off like a broken team after a 4-0 battering in Barcelona would credit it, yet victory over Besiktas at Elland Road tonight could leave them leading Group H at the half-way stage.

If a week is a long time in politics, a fortnight in football is an eternity. No-one who saw Leeds United trudge off like a broken team after a 4-0 battering in Barcelona would credit it, yet victory over Besiktas at Elland Road tonight could leave them leading Group H at the half-way stage.

The Turkish club, who defused a potentially volatile occasion last night by cancelling their supporters' flight after selling only 70 of the 500 tickets, joined Leeds in helping to open up the section by beating Barcelona while the Yorkshire side were squeezing past Milan. "At the time of the Champions' League draw, if you'd told me we were playing two of the top clubs in Europe in our first two matches, I'd have settled for a point from each," said the Leeds manager, David O'Leary.

"Instead, after that poor defeat in Barcelona, we're on three points. So we're ahead of where I thought we'd be at this stage. My players didn't enjoy the chasing they got at the Nou Camp, which made it all the more pleasing to rectify things against Milan."

Put simply, this is a must-win fixture for Leeds, both in terms of their Champions' League aspirations and the fall-back position of switching to the Uefa Cup in the event of their finishing third. But O'Leary saw enough in the video of Besiktas's opening 4-1 defeat in Milan to understand how they managed to humble Barcelona 3-0 a week later.

"It sounds stupid to say 'take the goals away and they did very well', but it was true of Besiktas in the San Siro," he said. "The chances Milan made were taken ruthlessly, but the Turks looked a big, strong side. They defended well, counter-attacked effectively and worked hard for each other like we do. The fact that they beat Locomotiv Moscow home and away in qualifying shows their quality."

Despite his concern at Leeds's "tired" Premiership form - two points from the last four games - O'Leary relishes the prospect of pitting his tactical prowess against another top Italian coach. Already this year he has got the better of Fabio Cappello (Roma) and Alberto Zaccheroni (Milan); the man in charge of Besiktas, Nevio Scala, won two European trophies with Parma.

Scarla, the antithesis of "young and naïve", expects to pick from a full-strength squad which includes the dangerous French striker Pascal Nouma. O'Leary has no such luxuries and indeed will be without Michael Duberry until next season after he suffered a ruptured Achilles at Derby on Saturday, but Mark Viduka is in contention after finally returning from the Olympics.

Events in Istanbul five months ago, when two Leeds fans were killed the night before the Uefa Cup match against Galatasaray, had prompted the cancellation of all police leave within Leeds. Now, however, Besiktas's only backing will come from a handful of club officials.

Leeds United (4-4-2; probable): Martyn; Kelly, Mills, Radebe, Harte; Bowyer, Dacourt, Bakke, Matteo; Smith, Bridges.

Besiktas (1-2-5-2; probable): Shorunmu; Karhan; Eman, Khlestov; Ibrahim, Tayfur, Umit, Munch, Nihat; Ahmet Dursun, Nouma.

Referee: V Pereira (Portugal).

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