OKAN UDO – BeIiktaI, Trabzon vie for top spots in Europa finales

BeIiktaI, Trabzon vie for top spots in Europa finalesBeIiktaI and Trabzonspor faced off in the domestic Spor Toto Super League at Konya on Sunday, with BeIiktaI winning 3-0. The two teams will be in action again in the UEFA Europa League group stage finales on Thursday, but this time playing against different opponents.

BeIiktaI is at home to EPL side Tottenham Hotspur in Group C, while Trabzonspor takes Poland’s Legia Warsaw away in Group L The four teams have already qualified for round 32, but first place in their respective groups is at stake. The Black Eagles (BeIiktaI) and the Black Sea Storm (Trabzonspor) have several things in common going into Thursday’s matches.

Both are in second place and are facing the group leaders. The Eagles have nine points from five games and trail the Spurs by two, while Trabzonspor with 10 is two behind Legia This means the two Turkish teams must win to leapfrog their opponents in order be matched up with weaker opponents in the last 32.

Tottenham and Legia will consolidate their hold on first place if they avoid defeat in Istanbul and Warsaw, respectively. For BeIiktaI, it is a very important game indeed.

But the problem is that Slaven Bilic’s team is short of strikers going into the match against the Spurs. The Black Eagles win over Trabzonspor on Sunday was a Pyrrhic victory because they lost two strikers to injury.

Turkey forward Mustafa Pektemek, who was rushed to hospital in the second half after an aerial collision with an opponent, has undergone two surgeries for a broken nose and a fractured cheekbone and may very well have ended his season. Senegal star striker Demba Ba, the team’s top scorer, suffered a toe injury on his right foot towards the end of the first half and reports say he could be sidelined for up to three weeks.

To add insult to injury, Canada midfielder Atiba Hutchinson is definitely suspended after seeing red in the 2-2 draw at Greece’s Asteras Tripolis on matchday five. The three players will be missing from the BeIiktaI lineup on Thursday, but the Eagles need victory nonetheless.

Coach Bilic may be forced to start with super-sub striker Cenk Tosun, who scored the third goal against Trabzonspor, and bring winger Gkhan Tre up front. However, Tre has the bad habit of playing too much with the ball.

That’s not what the Eagles want on Thursday they want a striker who can score and end Tottenham’s 18-game unbeaten run in the Europa League group stage. The two teams drew 1-1 in their first meeting in England.

Tottenham’s Argentine manager Mauricio Pochettino has plenty of walking wounded to deal with and may have make some changes to his starting XI from the weekend’s 0-0 tie with Crystal Palace. England junior international Harry Kane should lead the Spurs attack since only Red Bull Salzburg Brazil striker Alan Carvalho has scored more goals than the 21-year-old so far in the group stage this season.

The match will take place at Istanbul’s Ataturk Stadium and will be refereed by Swede Stefan Johannesson. Kickoff is at 8:00 pm Storm needs revenge The Black Sea not only need victory over Legia in Warsaw to claim the top spot, but they also need it to avenge the 1-0 home loss to the Poles on Oct.

2 However Ersun Yanal’s men face a Herculean task because Legia is unbeaten at home in Europe this season. Furthermore the Storm will need to improve its goal-scoring prowess.

Trabzonspor looked disorganized and devoid of any creative ideas against BeIiktaI on Sunday and had virtually no clear chance of scoring in the entire 90 minutes. It was indeed a pathetic performance at Konya, to say the least.

Trabzonspor nevertheless has a chance in Warsaw because the match will be played behind closed doors (without spectators) as punishment meted out to the Polish team for the misbehavior of its fans. UEFA ordered Legia on Dec.

2 to play its next two European home matches behind closed doors and have been fined 105,000 euros for the behavior of their fans. Legia supporters were found guilty of racism, crowd disturbances and throwing fireworks in the 1-0 defeat by Belgian side Lokeren.

Already qualified Legia is also barred from taking fans to the away leg of their first knockout tie. Kickoff is at 10:05 pm and the referee will be Dane Keen Hansen.

SOURCE: Today’s Zaman