Scotland V England Saturday 24th February. 4:45PM. BBC One Scotland v England renew their rivalry…
Besiktas V Arsenal
Tuesday 19th August. 7:45PM. ITV 1
We’re into the play-off round of this year’s Champions League qualification process and just one more hurdle stands in the way of Arsenal and another appearance in the group stage.
The Gunners head to Istanbul for this crucial first-leg encounter against Besiktas. Emotions will be running high but the Premier League side will fancy their chances of leaving Turkey in control of this contest.
Can the Gunners claim a first-leg advantage? It should be a fascinating affair.
Arsenal Looking For Easy Ride To Group Stage
Once again Arsenal have to play through this play-off stage and once again they face Turkish opposition as they bid to reach the group stage for the 17th consecutive season.
No matter what happens, the Gunners always find a way to reach the lucrative last 32 stage and that trend looks set to continue in 2014/15. The club appear to be on the up and this fairly kind draw should ensure that they ease through to the next phase.
After starting the Premier League season with a dramatic late win against Crystal Palace, Arsene Wenger’s men will be in high spirits and this should be expressed in their performance at the Ataturk Olimpiyat Stadion.
The Gunners demonstrated grit and determination in that opening day turnaround against Palace and that should serve them well in Turkey. Last season’s FA Cup triumph has certainly galvanized the club whilst the summer addition of Alexis Sanchez is another huge step in the right direction for Wenger’s side.
With a second-leg at the Emirates to come, a win isn’t necessary for progression. However, the Gunners should have the better of their Turkish opponents.
Besiktas Face Mountainous Task
The hosts can consider themselves quite lucky to be in this competition at all as they only qualified as a virtue of Fenerbahce being banned from UEFA tournaments. They finished third in their domestic league last term and would ordinarily being playing Europa League football – a competition which is probably better suited to their current standing.
They’ll be looking for a major upset here but their chances of progression seem virtually impossible.
Had it been a one-off game, the Turks may have had a chance but over two legs the Gunners should ease through to the Group Stage once more. The Champions League wouldn’t seem right without either Arsenal or Manchester United so it’s a good thing that Wenger’s men have a relatively easy route to the last 32.
Besiktas aren’t a poor side but they certainly aren’t world-class and the fact they’ve got to play the second-leg in London means that they must seek a first-leg advantage in Istanbul. This added pressure could play right into the hands of Arsenal and could leave ample space for the Gunners to create chances.
The Turks do boast some talented players and fans will be familiar with the faces of attacking duo Demba Ba and Hugo Almeida. Nevertheless, Salvan Bilic’s side have very little chance of progressing and would probably settle for any result that gives them hope heading into next week’s return.
Besiktas V Arsenal Betting
Despite playing away from home, Arsenal are the odds-on favourites at 8/13 with Bet365. Meanwhile, the hosts are available at 9/2 whilst the draw can be backed at 14/5.
The Gunners thrashed Fenerbahce at this stage last year and should have little trouble qualifying against an inferior Besiktas over two legs.
Besiktas will pose a threat on Turkish soil and may well find the target. However, with the away goals rule in mind, Arsenal will be out for goals themselves and should find the net with relative ease in Istanbul.
Arsenal to score both halves is 6/4 with William Hill
If the Gunners do go on to grab the win that is expected then there is a strong chance that Aaron Ramsey will be amongst the goals.
The Welsh midfielder has developed into a prolific goalscoring midfielder over the past 18 months and got his season up and running with the late winner against Palace on Saturday. He scored in Turkey this time last year and we’re backing him to match that feat here.
Aaron Ramsey anytime scorer is 12/5 with SkyBet