Thanks to our strong finish last season and David Moyes’ hilarious cameo at Old Trafford, there is a realistic chance that Arsenal will have the second longest streak of participation in the Champions’ League Group Stage. That would be a great achievement given all financial restrictions Arsenal have had due to building Emirates Stadium.
There is an obstacle in that way however and just like last season our opponents are from Istanbul, Turkey. Bešiktaš ended their league campaign behind their city rivals Fenerbahče and Galatasaray but qualified for the Champions’ League qualifications thanks to Fenerbahče’s suspension by UEFA. Logic suggests that if Fenerbahče had been destroyed by The Gunners before they went on to win the Turkish league with 12-point-gap to third-placed Bešiktaš, The Eagles shouldn’t be a difficult task either.
However, logical conclusions are often denied by the unpredictability of football. We have our own problems with injuries and match fitness of World Cup stars which gives some hope to Slaven Bilić’s side.
The Croatian manager has had at least one great experience in England. As a manager of Croatian national team he sent Steve McLaren’s international career into abyss with a shocking 3:2 victory against England at Wembley that meant England failed to qualify for EURO 2008. It’s not the only reason why I mention Bilić. The former Croatian central defender – who played for West Ham and Everton respectively before he hung up his boots and jumped into a suit – might be the biggest star of The Eagles.
He is 45, he graduated law while being an active player and enjoys playing guitar. His spell at helm of Croatia was a mixed one – he had two great EURO campaigns but failed to reach World Cup, mostly thanks to England – Fabio Capello’s side won both matches against Croatia and lost to Ukraine which meant Croatia were condemned to third place in their group. Bilić is probably very happy to see Theo Walcott is unavailable as the pacey winger massacred Croatia at Maksimir with a hat-trick in a convincing 4:1 victory.
Of course, there is at least one dangerous player in Bešiktaš. His name is Demba Ba. The Senegalese striker was close to joining Arsenal in the recent past but found himself not needed at Chelsea and shipped to Turkey. He was instrumental in a victory over Feyenoord in the previous qualifying round as he scored a hat-trick in 3:1 victory at home. Like every Turkish team, they have very noisy fans who can be their 12th player.
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We have to be careful even if there is a lot of things that suggest we should win this tie easily. We have won every game in the qualifiers in the past and this one shouldn’t be an exception. We have a lot of quality players – especially in the attacking department – that should be able to secure our entrance to Group Stage as soon as tonight. Absence of Gibbs isn’t a good thing – and not just because he scored in Istanbul during his last visit – but Nacho Monreal should build on a good performance against Palace and give us no stress when Bešiktaš attack down the right flank.
It would be a great thing to win in Istanbul to stretch our another streak too – we have won last nine competitive matches and there is no reason why that streak shouldn’t go on.
We have three matches in eight days including the first big match in the league against Everton at Goodison Park and winning in Istanbul would make our next matches much easier. I’d like to see Rosicky and Campbell in the first eleven as Wilshere and Cazorla weren’t too impressive against Crystal Palace.
Let’s beat Bešiktaš and next season…who knows. Maybe Real Madrid sack Ancelotti and appoint Moyes so we can gun them down from the first place of consecutive seasons in Champions’ League!
Debuchy Chambers Koscielny Monreal
Arteta (c) Ramsey
Alexis Rosicky Campbell
Bešiktaš 1 v 3 Arsenal