Arsenal is set to host Turkish team Besiktas in the second leg of their Champions League Qualifying match-up on Wednesday. Besiktas was able to hold the Gunners to a 0-0 draw last Tuesday in Istanbul, and they will be relieved that they did not concede a crucial away goal. The match is part of the last qualifying round before the group stage of Europe’s most prestigious tournament.
Arsene Wenger, the manager of the English club, has said that the team’s main priority is winning the game. Arsenal have made it to the group stage of the Champions League for 16 consecutive years and want to make it a 17th with a win at home on Wednesday. The Gunners had previously been on a 13-match winning streak in Champions League playoff qualifying matches, whether home or away, but the streak was ended when they failed to defeat Besiktas last week.
Jack Wilshere, a midfielder for the London club, spoke to the media, saying that Arsenal’s amazing two-goal comeback over the weekend to earn a draw against Everton will surely give the Gunners confidence going into the Champions League tie. Wilshere will need to be at his best during the match, especially since his usual midfield partners, Aaron Ramsey and Mikel Arteta, will be absent. Arteta missed the Everton match as well, and it is thought that he will be out for at least another week due to injury, leaving the defensive midfielder role to be filled by the feisty Mathieu Flamini. Ramsey, on the other hand, is fit and in great form, scoring three goals in his past four games, but for the first time in his Arsenal career, he picked up a red card late in the game against Besiktas and will be suspended for the return leg at the Emirates. The Welshman’s starting spot will likely be filled by either the clever Tomas Rosicky or the industrious Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.
The Gunners will also likely be without center-forward Olivier Giroud, who twisted his ankle late in the Everton match, minutes after scoring the game tying goal. The 27-year-old Frenchman was seen leaving Goodison Park with a protective boot on his ankle, and Arsene Wenger said his likelihood of playing in midweek was not good. Giroud would normally be replaced by Yaya Sanogo, but the young Frenchman did not even travel with the Gunners last week to Turkey because he was unfit to play. He was recovering from a hamstring injury that he received during the Crystal Palace game last weekend. There has been no update on Sanogo’s injury, but as usual, Arsene Wenger has an injury crisis at the striker position. This has lead many into believing that Arsenal will bring in at least one more quality forward before the transfer window closes in the beginning of September, especially with rumors that German Lukas Podolski could be leaving London.
Besiktas will be looking to gain a surprise victory in the Champions League playoff against Arsenal, and will likely need to rely on a name all too familiar to those in London:Former Chelsea striker Demba Ba. The Senegalese striker has started his campaign well in Turkey, with a hat-trick in his first competitive start for the club against Feyenoord in the third qualifying round of the 2014-2015 Champions League season. Ba almost got the best of Arsenal keeper Wojciech Szczesny right from the kick-off in Istanbul as well. He attempted a half-field strike right from the whistle when he saw that the Gunner’s keeper was off of his line. Szczesny was able to deny the strike, but Ba made headlines for even attempting such an ambitious effort.
The Turkish side has yet to begin its domestic campaign, but it is undefeated in three competitive matches this year, so they will be keen on continuing their fine run of form. Besiktas showed on numerous occasions in the first leg that they can threaten the Gunners, especially on the counterattack, where Arsene Wenger’s side are known to be quite vulnerable at times. With the game to be played at the Emirates, the Gunners will likely have the lion’s share of the possession and will push their fullbacks high up the pitch to join the attack, thus leaving themselves open to a quick counter. Therefore Arsenal should have their hands full on Wednesday night versus Besiktas in the Champions League, but they should advance to the group stage of the competition for the 17th consecutive time.
Commentary by B. Taylor Rash