Başakşehir eye Champions League berth

DAILY SABAH
ISTANBUL
Published 16.08.2017 00:00

Super League surprise packages Medipol Başakşehir host Spanish side Sevilla in the first leg of their UEFA Champions League play-off tie today, the Turkish side's most high-profile match since their European debut in 2015-2016

A UEFA Champions League newcomer and an experienced European campaigner will go head to head for a place in the group stages when Başakşehir take on Sevilla FC in Istanbul today. The play-off first leg will be Medipol Başakşehir's first meeting with a Spanish club in UEFA competition. Either team has scored three goals in each of Sevilla's three meetings with Turkish clubs in UEFA competition. The Spanish side were 3-0 home winners against Beşiktaş at the Estadio Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan in the group stage of their victorious UEFA Cup campaign in the 2005-2006 season. Less happily for Sevilla, their UEFA Champions League campaign was ended by Fenerbahçe in the 2007-2008 season. Beaten 3-2 in Istanbul in the first leg of their round of 16 ties, Sevilla won by the same score line in Spain only to lose the ensuing penalty shoot-out, which also ended 3-2. The Istanbul side got to this stage by beating Club Brugge 5-3 on aggregate in the third qualifying round (3-3 away, 2-0 home). The home victory against Club Brugge was Medipol Başakşehir's first European win in their eighth attempt (D3, L4). Başakşehir qualified for the UEFA Champions League by finishing second in the Turkish Super League last season. This is only Medipol Başakşehir's third European campaign and their first in the UEFA Champions League. In the 2015-2016 season, they lost their opening tie, in the UEFA Europa League second qualifying round, 4-1 on aggregate to AZ Alkmaar. The following season, Başakşehir eliminated Croatia's HNK Rijeka on away goals in the UEFA Europa League second qualifying rounds (0-0 home, 2-2 away) before succumbing to FC Shakhtar Donetsk (1-2 home, 0-2 away). The Grey Owls' home record in Europe is 1-1-2.

One the other hand, the Spanish side is aiming to contest the group stages for the third season in a row. Last season, Sevilla advanced to the UEFA Champions League round of 16, the first time they had got past the group stage since 2009-2010, before going down 3-2 on aggregate to English champions Leicester. This time around they have qualified by coming fourth in La Liga last season. Başakşehir would be pleased to have in their lineup Emmanuel Adebayor and Gael Clichy, who played in a 3-0 success for Arsenal FC against Sevilla in the 2007-2008 UEFA Champions League group stage. Adebayor also played on loan for Real Madrid in the second half of the 2010-2011 campaign, scoring against Sevilla (2-0) in the return leg of their Copa del Rey semifinals.

Meanwhile, Sevilla's Simon Kjaer spent the 2015-2016 and 2016-2017 seasons with Fenerbahçe, facing the Grey Owls three times in the league (W2, L1). He also played in a Turkish Cup semifinals last term that finished 4-4 on aggregate, Başakşehir going through 10-9 on penalties.

Başakşehir midfielder Emre Belözoğlu was with Atletico Madrid in the first half of the 2012-2013 campaign, making seven La Liga appearances. Their coach Abdullah Avcı guided Turkey to the UEFA European Under-17 Championship title in 2005 and the semifinals of the FIFA U-17 World Cup later that year. He took charge of Başakşehir in 2006 and, on the back of several solid seasons, succeeded Guus Hiddink as senior Turkey coach in November 2011. Avcı resigned 21 months later, returning to Başakşehir in the summer of 2014. Sevilla's coach Eduardo Berizzo played in Spain, France, and Argentina as a defender, with Marcelo Bielsa, his first coach at CA Newell's Old Boys, having a profound influence on him. After assisting Bielsa with the Chilean national team he pursued his own coaching career and landed the job at former employers RC Celta de Vigo, taking the Galicians to the semifinals of the UEFA Europa League for the first time in 2016-2017.

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