OKAN UDO – BeIiktaI banks on ‘Dem Baba’ magic wand against the Gunners

BeIiktaI banks on ‘Dem Baba’ magic wand against the GunnersBeIiktaI, aka the Black Eagles, was dealt a tough draw in the UEFA Champions League playoff round as it was pitted against English Premiership powerhouse Arsenal. The first leg is in Istanbul on Tuesday and the return leg will be at Emirates Stadium eight days laterBut the Black Eagles and anyone associated with the illustrious Istanbul club are relying on newly signed French-born Senegal striker Demba Ba — rephrased by Turkish fans as andldquoDem Babaandrdquo (Papa Dem) — to wave his magic wand again and bring the English Gunners down to earth.

Ba was on the verge of joining Arsenal on loan at the transfer deadline last season, but the deal fell through. And as fate would have it, the 29-year-old will be instrumental in plotting the Gunnersandrsquo downfall in the Champions League playoff.

Ba hit a hat-trick in BeIiktaIandrsquos 3-1 second-leg victory over Feyenoord in the previous round, which gave the Black Eagles a 5-2 aggregate victory.This was Baandrsquos debut with BeIiktaI, and he scored three goals even though he came in as a substitute for Dutch-born Turkey international midfielder OIuzhan zyakup in the 50th minute.

For the record: The 21-year-old OIuzhan is a former youth product of Arsenal and he might be playing for the very first time against the team that brought him fame.The BeIiktaI faithful expect something similar or even more from Ba against the Gunners, regardless of the obvious gulf between the two teams.

The Black Eagles are 69th in the UEFA rankings and the Gunners 10th.BeIiktaI has never previously played against Arsenal in any European competition.

That gives added importance to the upcoming match because Ba has faced the Gunners many times while at West Ham United (2011), Newcastle United (2011-13) and Chelsea (2013-14), from whence he joined BeIiktaI. andldquoLet everyone be relaxed,andrdquo Ba reportedly told his teammates after the playoff round draw was made.

andldquoArsenal, of course, is a big team However, its greatness should not be over-exaggerated. If we play sensibly and put on a good fight, there is no reason why we cannot progress.

And we have the ability to make this happen,andrdquo he further said.andldquoOne tree does not a forest make,andrdquo say the Africans, who are well versed in forests and all their inhabitants.

Consequently, Ba will not be alone. He will be assisted up front by master passer OIuzhan, playmaker Gkhan Tre and Austrian-born left-winger Kerim Frei Konyunlu — formerly of FulhamCoach Bilic also knows Arsenal wellBeIiktaI Croatian coach Slaven Bilic, coincidentally, is a former West Ham defender (1996-97) and he too must have been up against Arsenal several times during his short stay with the Hammers in the Premiership.

Like Ba, Bilic has great respect for the Gunners but is not scared of them one bit. andldquoArsenal is one of the best teams in Europe.

We took one of the most difficult draws,andrdquo he said after the Champions League pairings were made.andldquoThis is without a doubt a match where Arsenal is the favorite.

We have great respect for Arsenal. We have hope and [a] plan.

We will try to implement this plan,andrdquo he noted. BeIiktaI beat Chelsea 1-0 in their recent 45-minute friendly in Istanbul.

Chelsea by all accounts is superior to Arsenal, and so Bilic, maybe thinking syllogistically, believes that his Black Eagles can also overcome Arsene Wengerandrsquos Gunners.andldquoWe will be brave and we will do our best to eliminate them,andrdquo he stated after the draw.

andldquoThe football we played against Chelsea gave a signal to us about this match. If we can deal with Chelsea, we can cope with Arsenal,andrdquo he added.

SOURCE: Today’s Zaman