Who will say goodbye to Champions League? Beşiktaş or Benfica?
by Arda Alan Işık
Nov 22, 2016 - 12:00 am GMT+3
by Arda Alan Işık
Nov 22, 2016 12:00 am
This year, Beşiktaş and Benfica were both generously offered the ticket to the next round of the Champions League many times in the group stage. Beşiktaş could have finished the job against Dynamo Kiev or Napoli at their home, but their great away performance was not supported by home wins. Benfica, on the other hand, gave away the second spot due their weak performance against Napoli and to Beşiktaş playmaker Anderson Talisca's vengeance. Now, even though the game is in İstanbul, Beşiktaş's inability to dominate home games and Benfica's effective but inconsistent counter-attacking game makes this match all but unpredictable.
In their first bout in Lisbon, Beşiktaş dominated the first half and found some serious opportunities against Benfica. Nevertheless, Benfica, apparently influenced by the Portuguese national team in EURO 2016, do not intend to take the initiative or control the game. Rather, by letting their opponent play with the ball they try to increase their chance of winning the ball in and around their opponent's penalty area through some intense pressing. Four or five men try to block and intercept putting pressure on the player with the ball and his possible passing options. This can turn into a true nightmare for teams like Beşiktaş, which have no specific or collective plans to get out of this kind of intense pressing.
However, Benfica's strategy after their first goal in their first match shows, the aggressive pressing does not last long and they tend to turn into a more conservative counter-attacking unit by letting their opponent come to their half and eventually leave space for fast counter-attacks. This strategy might not be as effective against Beşiktaş, given the Turkish side are not interested in taking the initiative and imposing their own game in Champions League. Rather, with Benfica's offensive efficiency dropped significantly after their goal, they tend to control the game without taking risks, which is not good news for a counter-attacking opponent.
On the other hand, Beşiktaş's game has rapidly become more chaotic, individualistic in the Champions League. Coach Şenol Güneş has mostly opted for defensive midfielders in the center of his game while leaving out creative playmakers like Oğuzhan Özyakup and Anderson Talisca. Now Talisca is gone for three months, and Özyakup is far from his usual performance, and the only source of creativity for Beşiktaş's offence is Ricardo Quaresma's inconsistent, spoiled and chaotic feet. Last season Beşiktaş had the same problem of dullness, but Jose Sosa and Mario Gomez were efficient enough to win the league and the team had a proper collective strategy unlike this year's anarchistic approach.
I think both the sides would be cautious and defensive, at least until one of them score. Given Benfica will play against Napoli and Beşiktaş take on Dynamo Kiev next week, a draw would lead to some interesting final games.
If Napoli beat Dynamo Kiev, both Beşiktaş and Benfica will find relaxed and indifferent teams in the final week. However, I would say if Beşiktaş or Benfica cannot finish off this competition tomorrow, which is very likely, chances would be equal in the last week and in order to finish it, they have to put up performances they could not show in the previous weeks. Either Beşiktaş will dominate a home-game for the first time or Benfica will not retreat to classic counter-attacking and give the initiative to their opponent.Let the games begin.