UEL: Beşiktaş JK – Asteras Tripolis

Updated: September 17, 2014

UEFA Europa League (GROUP C)
Beşiktaş JK – Asteras Tripolis (GRE)
Location: Atatürk Olimpiyat, Istanbul
Referee: Miroslaw Zelinka (CZE)
Date: Thursday September 18th 2014
Time: 20:00 (GMT+2)
Channel: STAR TV

Thursday evening the Black Eagles will kick-off their 2014-2015 Europa League campaign against Greek side Asteras Tripolis at 20:00 local time in the Olimpiyat stadium. The other two teams in Group C, Tottenham Hotspur and Partizan Belgrade, will meet eachother in the Serbian capital of Belgrade that same evening.

With a difficult trip to London on the second of October on matchday two the Eagles will be looking to keep the points in Istanbul on matchday one given that Asteras is, atleast on paper, the supposed weakest team in the group. However Asteras should not be underestimated having eliminated FC Mainz and Maccabi Tel Aviv in the qualifying rounds of the Europa League.

Beşiktaş will likely start with a similar formation as they did last weekend, with Demba Ba still being doubtful he will likely not be risked in this game with a difficult away game in Bursa on Monday to look forward to. Oguzhan Özyakup who missed the two first Süper Lig games due to suspension is likely to return in the first eleven. José Sosa is still out injured. Ersan Gülüm who picked up an injury in the last league game will be replaced by Tomas Sivok most likely.

Beşiktaş predicted XI: Tolga; Ismail, Frnaco, Sivok, Motta; Veli Kavlak, Atiba Hutchinson, Oguzhan, Olcay, Töre, Cenk Tosun

Beşiktaş are favourites to go through in the group together with Tottenham but will need to win this game to live up to their role as favourites. A draw or a loss is not an option for Slaven Bilic’ men.

We spoke to Chris Andre (@ChrisAndra6 on Twitter), who writes for phantis.com, and he gave us some nice insight on the strengths and weaknesses of Asteras Tripolis.

Asteras Tripolis. A Greek club that is modest in every sense of the word. The club itself is small, the stadium is small, and the atmosphere is not typically Greek either. It’s a lot more, well, modest! Their ground fits a mere 7,616 and they rarely fill it, which tells one everything they need to know about the size of the club. However this family club has character and has been punching way above its weight in Greece for a few years now. As former giants of Greek football like AEK Athens, Aris, and Larisa languish in the lower divisions, Asteras make great strides.  They have finished in the play off spot in the Greek Superleague for 2 years in a row. This season, after overcoming Bundesliga outfit Mainz (3-2 agg) they toppled Maccabi Tel Aviv on away goals (3-3), to reach the group stages of a major European competition for the first time in their history.

Asteras Tripolis have been treated to some wonderful ties against clubs with a rich history. Tottenham, Besiktas and Partizan Belgrade.  A win against any of these historic clubs will be written as a golden chapter in their history.  They play a neat game, with a South American inter-changing style in attack, and they can be a force at home. However, on their travels they are still a little naïve and their idealistic approach means that they simply do not do the “ugly stuff” well enough. A lack of defensive solidity therefore, is likely to see them concede quite a few on the road. In their 9 competitive games so far this season they have won all 4 of their home matches, but none of their away games, drawing just one of those. So from a coaching perspective they have real problems away from the comforts of Tripolis. Nonetheless, they are bound to enjoy this without any real pressure or expectation. After all, they might never get here again! Whatever the outcome no one can take away the rewards that await their fans. They will get to travel to a Premier League giant as well as two of the most hostile stadiums in European football: Attaturk Olympic Stadium and the Stadion Partizana. On paper it is a mountainous obstacle, and they must cope with all this despite losing their star attacking player: Pablo De Blasis. Ironically De Blasis signed for Mainz, who Asteras disposed of in the qualifying round between the two teams. He also scored against them!

If the Arcadians are to have any chance of qualifying, they will need players such as Pablo Mazza, Dimitris Kourbelis, and Dorin Goian, to play to their full potential. Underdogs they may be compared to Tottenham and Besiktas, but Staikos Vergetis’ men were given no chance against Mainz either and various Greek teams have shown in recent years that shocks can occur.  To put this in to perspective, Asteras Tripolis’ most notable triumphs prior to this was a Greek Cup final appearance in 2013, and a 3rd place finish in the league that same year. That is it. No real, top domestic trophies to glisten in their cabinet. No “glory days” that the fans can look back on with nostalgia. Their glory days are being spawned here and now. So whatever does transpire in this group of giants, the birth of beautiful memories is about to take place for this modest but plucky team from Tripoli. Let the games begin!

Thanks again to Chris for his insights and please give him a follow on Twitter if you’d like to stay up to date about Greek Football!

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Kaan Bayazit

Editor-in-chief at Beşiktaş International
Freelance sports writer specialized in Turkish football and Beşiktaş. Co-host of the Black Eagles podcast. Frequently featured in World Soccer Digest Japan and many other international media outlets. Following Turkish football for close to two decades. Proud father to Aedin.
Kaan Bayazit
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