Last summer the ex-Chelsea striker Demba Ba was on the verge of joining Arsenal on loan before Jose Mourinho put a block on the deal, but now he has moved to the Turkish side Besiktas who just happen to be playing the Gunners for the first time ever in Europe.
Obviously Ba has played against us many times in his career with West Ham United (2011), Newcastle United (2011-13) and Chelsea (2013-14), and is no stranger to our style of play. Ba made his debut for Besiktas in the Qualifying round against Feyenoord and he must certainly be in a confident mood as he scored all three goals in the 3-1 defeat of the Dutch giants to put them through to this stage. Even more impressive is the fact that he only played the last 40 minutes of the game after coming on as a sub for Turkey international midfielder Oğuzhan Özyakup, who you may remember came through the ranks at Arsenal.
Apparently since the draw was made Ba has been quoted as saying: “Let everyone be relaxed,”
“Arsenal, 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.”
That remains to be seen, but the Turkish side definitely performed well by beating Feyenoord in both Qualifying games. Their coach Slaven Bilic is also well respected in England after his exploits with Croatia, and he too thinks that they have a chance to go through.
Besiktas recently beat Chelsea 1-0 in a friendly and Bilic is feeling quietly confident. He said: “This 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,”
“We will be brave and we will do our best to eliminate them,” he continued. “The football we played against Chelsea gave a signal to us about this match. If we can deal with Chelsea, we can cope with Arsenal.”
Again that remains to be seen, but Arsenal fans should be aware that this game is hardly to be considered a pushover, especially as most of our players are not yet fully match fit…..