Besiktas vs RB Leipzig – Tuesday September 26, 19:45 BT/20:45 CET – Beşiktaş Park, Istanbul.
When speaking about the Champions League, the phrase the ‘Group of Death’ is all too often overused and, for the most part, ill-applied. Of course, everyone wants to see a group in which there are three teams hopeful of the top two places in the group. And if you are looking for a ‘Group of Death’, you will not find a better one than Group H in this year’s competition where Borussia Dortmund, Real Madrid and Tottenham Hotspur battle it out for a place in the knock-out stages. Group G, on the other hand, may not be a classic ‘Group of Death’ but it is arguably more intriguing than the group that immediately follows it alphabetically. Of the teams in the group—Beşiktaş, RB Leipzig, Monaco and FC Porto—any one of them could finish top of the group, and any one of them could finish in bottom place.
After the first set of fixtures in the group, Beşiktaş currently sit in the top spot after a 3-1 victory away from home over Porto: a result which sets them in good stead for eventually progressing out of the group. This result came off the back of a run of form in the Turkish Süper Lig which saw them unbeaten until this weekend during which their away fixture against Fenerbahçe ended with a 2-1 loss as far as goals were concerned although they ran out 3-1 winners if you counted red cards.
For RB Leipzig, the fixture comes at the worst possible time for their Champions League aspirations. A somewhat underwhelming 1-1 draw against Monaco in their tournament debut will have disappointed Leipzig coach Ralph Hasenhüttl. Despite Monaco’s mercurial rise in the tournament last season, the team were farmed for parts over the summer months, and the Austrian trainer will have seen the match as Leipzig’s for the taking. Instead, Die Roten Bullen find themselves travelling to Turkey looking to get their first win under their belts in what can only be described as an inhospitable environment. Turkish football comes with a reputation. Welcoming Leipzig to the Vodafone Park in Istanbul, Beşiktaş’s reputation precedes them. Leipzig captain, Willi Orban, has already acknowledged to kicker that the team know that ‘the atmosphere will be insane’—hardly a place to settle the nerves.
The Bundesliga’s youngest team have also struggled to recreate the form that saw them take the league by storm last year. More often than not, the rise and fall of the team can be documented against the rise and fall of their midfield maestro Naby Keïta. A summer of upheaval followed by injury and suspension in the early season has meant that, more often than not, Leipzig have been without their star. Even with the herculean efforts of Timo Werner to carry the team with his goals, Die Roten have hardly hit the heights that they found last year. This week, though, Leipzig are back to their full complement for the first time since the season began except Yussuf Poulsen who has gradually been usurped by former PSG youngster Jean-Kevin Augustin. This is Leipzig’s strongest line-up, and so Hasenhüttl will be hoping that his team might simultaneously open their account in the Champions League while kick-starting their season in general.
Besiktas vs RB Leipzig – Players to Watch Out For
Ricardo Quaresma #7 – Beşiktaş
Looking at the team sheet for the Turkish side, you might be forgiven for thinking that you had travelled back in time. Ricardo Quaresma hit the headlines back in 2003 when the (admittedly more fresh-faced) Portuguese arrived at Barcelona admit the very highest of plaudits. Whilst he never quite reached the heights that were expected of him, Quaresma recently rejuvenated his career with the Portuguese National Team helping them on their way to the European Championship in 2016. Now in his second stint at the Istanbul club, the now-thirty-three-year-old has appeared in all six of their Süper Lig fixtures this season, scoring one goal in the process. With his quirks and his tricks, Quaresma is always one to keep an eye on. In this case, Beşiktaş fans will be hoping he can inspire the team to a second consecutive win in the group and make their progression to the knock-out stages almost assured.
Timo Werner #11 – RB Leipzig
On his current form, it’s hard to look beyond Timo Werner as the Player to Watch Out For at RB Leipzig. Werner now has scored 16 times in 17 games: a phenomenal record even given the fact he plays in a domestic league which includes Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Robert Lewandowski. Given their recent travails, RB Leipzig will be thankful to Werner for keeping them in the running in the Bundesliga this season. Scoring the eventual winner against Eintracht Frankfurt in Match Day 6, Werner doesn’t look like he’ll be letting up on the goal front anytime soon. However, he is yet to open his Champions League account for the club and, if his recent record is anything to go by, it is unlikely it will take him long to find the net. And where better to silence the opposition’s fans than in the cauldron that is Vodafone Park?
Besiktas vs RB Leipzig – Match Stats
- These two clubs have never played one another before in their histories.
- While this is a first European away game for competition debutants RB Leipzig, Beşiktaş have lost all three previous home matches against Bundesliga visitors without registering a goal.
- They have also been unsuccessful overall in their games against German sides with figures of played 7, won 0, drawn 1 and lost 6.
- Beşiktaş have not faced a German side since November 2009 where they lost 3-0 at home to VfL Wolfsburg in the group stages of the Champions League.
Futbolgrad Prediction: Besiktas vs RB Leipzig 0-2
Besiktas vs RB Leipzig – Possible Starting Lineups
Fabri – Adriano, Pepe, Tosic, Erkin – Hutchinson, Ozyakup – Quaresma, Anderson Talisca, Babel – Tosun
Manager: Şenol Güneş
Gulacsi – Klostermann, Orban, Upamecano, Halstenberg – Demme, Keïta – Sabitzer, Forsberg – Augustin, Werner
Manager: Ralph Hasenhüttl
Jon Mackenzie has a portfolio career which includes freelance journalism, cryptic crossword setting, bar tending and lecturing at universities, amongst other things. You can follow his tweets @Jon_Mackenzie, listen to his podcasts at ateamofjohnosheas.com and read his writes at jonmackenzie.com.