Preview: Besiktas v Lyon – The Black Eagles aim to make Europa League history
Besiktas have the chance to make history against Lyon in the Europa League quarter-final second-leg on Thursday.
The Black Eagles will book a place in the Europa League semi-finals for the first time if they knock the Ligue 1 outfit out of the competition.
The first-leg ended in a 2-1 victory to Lyon with Besiktas scoring what could prove to be a very important away goal.
Losing 2-1 to Lyon in France is by all means a respectable result but had Besiktas not had a meltdown in the last few minutes they would have left with a victory.
GOOOOOL! RYAN BABEL OPENS THE SCORING!!!! GOOOOOOL BEŞIKTAŞ!!!! TALISCA WITH THE ASSIST!!!! pic.twitter.com/xp8ey4N0GY
— Turkish Football (@Turkish_Futbol1) April 13, 2017
Yet again Besiktas ended up shooting themselves in the foot. This team have come so close to achieving something special in Europe only to kick themselves in the teeth.
Besiktas were agonisingly close to booking a place in the Champions League Last 16. They entered Match Day 6 unbeaten, having become the first side to ever beat Napoli at home in a Champions League game.
The Black Eagles ended up suffering a 6-0 defeat and getting two players send off against a Dynamo Kiev side that had nothing to play for.
The Istanbul giants have been accused of lacking bottle for years but this side have shown a fighting spirit this season. Besiktas came back from three goals down to pull off a draw against Benfica. They fought tooth and nail to come from behind and become the first side to beat Trabzonspor in 2017 recently.
There is no denying that this Besiktas side have fight in them. The problem is more a case of having a little too much fight. It is ill discipline which has cost Senol Gunes’ side more than anything.
Vincent Aboubakar will miss the Lyon clash after getting himself sent off in a ridiculous head butting incident in the last round against Olympiakos. Star defender Marcelo will also miss the game following his booking in the first-leg against Lyon.
Besiktas have sufficient cover for Aboubakar with 21-goal Cenk Tosun upfront but in defence the absence of Marcelo is a huge miss.
The Eagles have a shaky defence as it is with Marcelo in the starting lineup. Without him Gunes is left with a dilemma. He is likely to start with Mirtrovic and Tosic as his centre-back pairing although defensive midfielder Necip Uysal could end up being drafted in.
Another concern is whether full-back Adriano and star winger Ricardo Quaresma will recover from injury in time.
Quaresma missed last weeks clash but is expected to make a full recovery in time for the return leg. Adriano meanwhile will be a game time decision.
Gunes has a full strength midfield at his disposal with Oguzhan Ozyakup and Atiba Hutchinson expected to start in the middle. The fantastic four of Anderson Talisca, Ryan Babel and Quaresma will lead the attacking line.
Talisca and co caused Lyon problems in the first half of the first-leg, especially from set pieces.
The French side struggled to deal with the front four’s physicality, movement and Talisca’s creativity.
Lyon are facing defensive problems themselves with centre-back Emmanuel Mammana out injured and full-back Rafael suspended.
Memphis Depay is cup-tied but star players Alexandre Lacazette, Nabil Fakir and Corentin Tolisso will be available.
Lyon in many ways share the same strengths and weaknesses as Besiktas, a dodgy defence and a lethal attacking force.
Crowd trouble delayed the first-leg but it paled in comparison to what Lyon went through in their following game away to Bastia.
— The Away Fans Videos (@TheAwayFansVids) April 16, 2017
The game was abandoned at half-time due to crowd trouble.
Besiktas meanwhile have had a less eventful weak. The Eagles have not played since last Thursday as league games were called off due to the Turkish presidential elections. Gunes has had a full week to focus on the return-leg clash.
The Istanbul giants are unbeaten in Europe, actually they are unbeaten full stop in the Vodafone Arena. Anyone who has attended a game in the new stadium will understand why. The voice will be almost unbearable, the atmosphere will be incredible, make no mistake Besiktas will have a 12th man against Lyon.
Lyon are favourites on paper but Besiktas are undefeated in European competition against Benfica and Napoli this season. Away trips to Istanbul are notoriously difficult. Even Manchester United lost their away game in Turkey this season against a Fenerbahce side that are experiencing a disappointing campaign.
Prediction: Besiktas Win