Tuesday, October 26, 2021

Beşiktaş set to start Champions League campaign at home

Beşiktaş, Turkey’s sole representer in the European club football’s showpiece event, launches its Champions League campaign on Sept. 15 at home against Borussia Dortmund.

Beşiktaş won the Turkish Süper Lig on goal difference last season, and the Istanbul club has started off its title defense with three wins and a draw from its opening four games.

The club side is back in the Champions League after a three-year absence, and after making several big-name signings this summer, it will be aiming to at least reach the knockout rounds of the competition.

One player top watch will be Miralem Pjanic, who joined Beşiktaş from Barcelona on loan earlier this month. The Bosnian star made his debut for his new club on Sept. 11 in a Süper Lig game against Malatyaspor, completing the game with an assist, winning the hearts of Beşiktaş fans.

With expectations high, Beşiktaş coach Sergen Yalçın faces a headache in the defense due to injuries.

The Turkish coach will be missing the services of experienced defenders Domagoj Vida and Alex Teixeira, and is expected field Welinton Francisco Montero to replace the duo.

Beşiktaş’s renewed defensive line will face a very tough test against a high-scoring Borussia Dortmund, led by prolific star Erling Haaland.

The Norwegian striker, who tops the transfer shortlist of all major European clubs, has scored five goals in the four Bundesliga games Dortmund has played so far.

The other game in Group C of the Champions League group stage pitches Sporting Lisbon against Ajax.

Elsewhere in the competition, RB Leipzig finds itself in the unusual position of not being cast as the bad guys in the “group of death.”

Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain will cross swords again in Group A with both projects backed by oil-rich Middle Eastern states still chasing the holy grail of a first European Cup.

Amid the fallout of falling revenue due to the coronavirus pandemic shutting stadiums for over a year and the failure of the European Super League project, Abu Dhabi-owned City and Qatar-backed PSG have been the big winners.

Uninhibited by the loss of gate receipts and encouraged by the easing of Financial Fair Play regulations, they are the new power couple of European football, much to the anger of many of the continent’s traditional powers.

PSG has reunited Lionel Messi with Neymar and shunned Real Madrid’s reported 180 million euro ($212m) bid for Kylian Mbappe despite the France World Cup winner having less than a year to run on his contract.

Euro 2020 player of the tournament Gianluigi Donnarumma, Georginio Wijnaldum and 60-million-euro right-back Achraf Hakimi also arrived at the Parc des Princes during the transfer window.

City made just one new addition, but broke the 100-million-pound ($138 million) barrier for the first time in the Premier League to get Jack Grealish from Aston Villa.
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