Thoughts on Arsenal’s Opponents in the UCL Qualifiers
As the season hots up, the chums at UEFA decided to be in the spotlight with their draws for the Champions League qualifiers that would take place this month. There were some interesting fixtures on display with SSC Napoli getting a tasty draw with Athletic Bilbao while LOSC Lille Metropole takes on FC Porto. However, Arsenal would brace themselves for a double-legged affair with Turkish outfit, Besiktas SK.
The team had qualified for the Europa League group stages last season after an aggregate victory over Norwegian side, Tromso, but they as well as fellow Turkish side, Fenerbahce, were banned by UEFA following some allegations of match-fixing. A season without European football made the team concentrate on the Turkish SuperLig and after finishing the campaign in second place to Fenerbahce, the Turks under the guidance of Slaven Bilic are set to take on the Gunners for the right to be in Champions League group stages.
The team doesn’t have as much “household names” like Galatasaray but folks like Atiba Hutchinson, Michael Eneramo and Manuel Fernandes have gained their fair share of popularity in the world of football. The Gunners would have to keep half an eye on Hugo Almeida, Besiktas’ top scorer last season. Almeida has been at Besiktas since 2011 and he has scored 47 goals in 108 games for the Turks. In his time with the club, he has won the Turkish Cup in his first season.
He’s also a regular in the Portuguese national team and like his compatriots, he suffered the ignominy of a disastrous World Cup so he returned earlier than expected.
Despite Besiktas’ stature, I don’t think that they have enough in the tank to win Arsenal but football is one hell of a surprising sport. The dates for the fixtures have also been set for August 19th and 27th, and we would be hoping that the Gunners play in Europe’s elite competition for the umpteenth time after easing past the Turks.