Fighting Talk From WengerJake Cooper | 12 Oct 2016
FA Cup winners Arsenal are preparing to fight for their place in the Champions League in tomorrow’s play-off against Besiktas. How do the two teams shape up and who will influence the game most?
The Gunners have reached the group stages of the Champions League for an impressive 16 consecutive seasons and will make the trip to Turkey for the first leg of their playoff on Tuesday. The home leg against Besiktas will follow on Wednesday 27th.
“We’re desperate to go through, no matter what it costs,” said Arsene Wenger. “We want to play in the Champions League and we know how big these games are.”
At least two Arsenal players will be struggling with their fitness ahead of the game with defenders Laurent Koscienlny and Kieran Gibbs both recovering from injuries.
Per Mertesacker, despite enjoying an extended leave after his World Cup victory this summer, is likely to be called back early to play in tomorrow’s play-off.
Wenger commented on the sooner-than-expected return of the German player, saying, “It was our plan to bring the Germans back in contention for Everton (taking place on Saturday), but in case of emergency I will take Mertesacker.
“It is a bit early for him. Ideally we would need one more week preparation, but he is willing to play, no problem.”
In their first Premier League game of the season, Arsenal beat Crystal Palace 2-1 thanks to a last-minute goal from Aaron Ramsey. They face Slaven Bilic’s side at the Ataturk Olympic Stadium tomorrow evening, the very same place that Liverpool beat AC Milan in the 2005 Champions League final.
Besiktas’ own Vodafone Arena is currently begin redeveloped, but they shouldn’t have any difficulty packing the much larger 72,000 capacity stadium.
Besiktas came second in last season’s Turkish championship. Their third round Champions League qualifier saw them defeat Feyenoord 5-2 on aggregate, with Demba Ba securing the win with a hat-trick in the second leg.
The first leg of Arsenal vs. Besiktas kicks off at 19.45 BST on Tuesday 19th August.