Liverpool v Besiktas: Europa League 2015

 Liverpool v Besiktas 8-0

It’s Liverpool v Besiktas from Anfield in the Europa League tonight but we’re not expecting a repeat of the 8-0 thrashing handed out by the Reds…

Liverpool winger Raheem Sterling faces a fitness test ahead of their Europa League last-32 meeting with Besiktas while captain Steven Gerrard (hamstring) and Lucas Leiva (thigh) are out as is Lazar Markovic as he begins a four-match ban.

Besiktas striker Demba Ba will face Liverpool for the first time since scoring for Chelsea last year in a win which damaged the Reds’ title hopes. Ba is joint-top scorer in Turkish football this season alongside Fernandao of Bursaspor.

His goal at Anfield in April arrived when he pounced on a Gerrard mistake to score the first in Chelsea’s 2-0 win in the Reds’ penultimate home game of the season.

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After an abominable Champions League campaign which featured one win in six games, Liverpool have been given a second bite of this season’s European cherry. The Reds are in much better shape now that manager Brendan Rodgers has found a system that gets the most out of his players, and the return of attacking talisman Daniel Sturridge from injury has proved a gigantic boost.

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Slaven Bilic‘s side gave Arsenal an almighty scare in the Champions League qualifiers. After a goalless draw in Turkey, Besiktas missed some presentable chances in a 1-0 defeat at the Emirates. Having dropped down to the Europa League, Besiktas then gave an excellent account of themselves against Spurs. Former Chelsea and Newcastle striker Demba Bascored a late equaliser at White Hart Lane in a 1-1 draw, and the Black Eagles edged the reverse fixture 1-0 to make sure of top spot in the group.

Besiktas were unbeaten in their three away games in the group stage, and in the Super Lig they have won nine of their ten away matches. Although Besiktas are embroiled in a three-way scrap for the title, Bilic is not a man who prioritises competitions.

The former Croatia defender will field the strongest side possible, and I expect his team to play with their usual intensity and high work-rate. Besiktas have added motivation, as they look to avenge an 8-0 hammering they suffered at Anfield in the Champions League back in 2007.

The Turkish visitors are without first-choice keeper Tolga Zengin, but the rest of their key players are fit and in good form. WingerGokhan Tore is finally living up to his potential, Argentinean Jose Sosa pulls the strings in midfield, while Liverpool fans know all too well how much damage Ba can do. The Senegalese striker took advantage of a now-infamous slip by Steven Gerrard to fatally damage Liverpool’s title hopes last term, as he scored the opener for Chelsea in a 2-0 win.

Liverpool’s team news isn’t so encouraging. Defensive midfielderLucas is out with a thigh injury, and there’s no-one else in the squad who can offer the same expert level of screening for the back three.

Skipper Steven Gerrard is also out, and he’s still the man Liverpool turn to when adversity comes knocking. Flying machine Raheem Sterling faces a fitness test on a foot injury, while the improving Lazar Markovic now begins a four-match European ban after being sent off in both the Champions League and Europa League in the past 12 months.

It’s tempting to lay Liverpool at such a short price, but there is a chance they could edge a close one and gain a slim first-leg advantage. I’m backing Besiktas +1.0 on the Asian Handicapat 1.87, which pays out in the event of a draw or an away win, and returns your stake if Liverpool only win by one goal.

It’s worth noting that despite their recent improvement, only two of the Reds’ last seven wins have come by a margin of two goals or bigger.

Suggested Bets…..

Back Besiktas +1.0 on the Asian Handicap @ 1.87

Back Under 2.5 goals @ 2.62 

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