FC Porto kick off their Champions League campaign on Wednesday evening by welcoming Besiktas to the Estádio do Dragão.
The match sees two former favourites of the Estádio do Dragão face their former team, with Portugal internationals Ricardo Quaresma and Pepe returning to the stadium where they were venerated by the home fans.
Turkish football expert Efe Can Candan gives us the lowdown on the current Süper Lig champions.
Current form. How have Besiktas looked in the new season so far?
Besiktas have started the season slowly and after losing the Super Cup to Konyaspor at the very beginning (1-2) and drawing against Kasimpasa (2-2) in week two, a lot of people started thinking that Besiktas wasn’t going to be the same team they had been for the past years since Senol Gunes has been in charge. However, keeping in mind the new transfers of the club (including Pepe, Negredo and Lens) who still have to settle in, Besiktas continue to play attacking football and can outscore any club in the Turkish league.
Ones to watch - Who are Besiktas’s star players?
The star players at this moment for Besiktas in my eyes are without a doubt the following: Atiba Hutchinson who is getting older but still plays a vital role for Besiktas in the build-up play. Pepe who even though he just joined, is a player of such quality it immediately gives a massive boost to the defence of any given club on this planet. Talisca is very important with his long shots and goals for Besiktas. He joined later this year because of some issues with Benfica but I am sure he will score some incredible goals like he did last season once he gets into form.
Oguzhan Ozyakup can control the entire midfield for Besiktas and even though he sometimes has the habit of disappearing in bigger matches, he is more than capable of keeping possession as well as giving an amazing through ball putting the striker one on one with the goalkeeper.
Strong points/weak points – what must Porto beware of and what can they exploit?
Porto must watch out for the attacking force of Besiktas which is strong and quick enough to only need one shot or breakthrough to score a goal. Besiktas plays a very quick game where the ball circulates throughout the team at high tempo.
The thing Porto can exploit however is the defence of Besiktas who despite having added Pepe, is still their most vulnerable spot. If Porto can utilize the flanks and break through the defence of Besiktas, they can end up in a lot of goal-scoring positions.
Formation and playing style – what system do Besiktas usually play? Would you describe them generically as an attacking or a defensive team?
In their last match against Karabukspor (1-0 for win for BJK) they lined up in a 4-2-3-1 formation which they use in most of their matches. Besiktas, as I have said earlier, are an amazing side when it comes to attacking and are capable of scoring goals against any kind of opposition. However, with Negredo still having failed to be the goal-scoring machine I expect him to be, most of their attacking prowess needs to come from their wingers and Talisca.
What are the local press saying about the Champions League draw? Do they expect Besiktas to progress from the group? Has there been a lot of talk about Pepe and Quaresma returning to their former club?
The local press and people seem to be optimistic for Besiktas this year. Most people would certainly expect that Porto and Leipzig should be clubs that Besiktas is on par with at this moment and even though Monaco is still an amazing team, with all the players that they have had to replace this year even they might be doable for the Turkish Champions. I would say in general a lot of people expect them to progress or at least finish 3rd and move into the Europa league.
So far, I have failed to really pick up any interest from the big media in Turkey about Quaresma and Pepe returning to their former clubs and it looks like the focus is more on seeing how this team is going to play in this year’s Champions League.
Mood in the camp – judging by player/coach quotes regarding this game, do you think Besiktas come into the match in a confident frame of mind?
Besiktas can come into any match confident at this moment seeing how they have totally dominated the Turkish league for two years now and have some of the most passionate and vocal fans in Europe to back them. The team had an unlucky run in the Champions League the previous year (the Dynamo Kiev match comes to mind) but also played some incredible matches and showed that they can play along quite well at this level.
Senol Gunes is a coach who can motivate his players well and likes to keep his players protected from outside pressure to make sure they can focus a 100% for the upcoming games.
How much of a hero is Ricardo Quaresma there? How has Pepe settled in so far?
Ricardo Quaresma is still one of the most powerful yet volatile wingers in Turkey. Just this week he got a red card for walking into the referee (by accident as he said) but also manages to give a headache to most of the backs playing in the league. With two goals and 13 assists in the League last season, he helped Besiktas win their second title in a row and is loved by the Besiktas fans for his fierce personality and his amazing footballing skills
Like I have said before, Pepe is a world class player who to everyone’s surprise came to Besiktas. Even if he was injured and played he would be one of the best defenders in the league and I am sure that he will only get better from an already solid start to the season.
What do you think the result of the match will be?
I am expecting an 2-1 win for Besiktas.
Our thanks to Efe Can Candan. For more from Efe follow him on Twitter @EfecanCandan.