Having dropped out of the Champions League and into the Europa League last Tuesday, today Liverpool have drawn Turkish league leaders Besiktas as their opponents in the round of 32. It's about as long a trip as Liverpool could have faced, and it's also about as tough an opponent as the struggling English club could have drawn.
Then again, with clubs like Napoli, Inter Milan, Zenit Saint Petersburg, Athletic Bilbao, and Borussia Monchengladbach all in the mix, a difficult draw was always fairly likely. Besiktas currently top the Turkish Super Lig, and they advanced from their Europa League group in first ahead of Tottenham, who they won four points against in their two matches.
Slaven Bilic's side also narrowly missed out on making it to the Champions League when they drew Arsenal as opponents in the qualifying round in August, falling to a narrow 1-0 defeat on aggregate. In league play, they are one point up on Galatasaray with 29 after 13 games, having scored 20 and conceded just 11, the fewest goals against in the Turkish league.
Ex-Chelsea striker Demaba Ba has eight of those goals, and he will be the clear danger man for a Liverpool side that remains a complete mess at the back when Brendan Rodgers deploys his preferred starters. The Turkish side will also be out for revenge after Liverpool hammered them 8-0 at Anfield in the 2007 Champions League group stages under Rafa Benitez.
"Liverpool should be more concerned about us than we are about them," said a confident Ahmet Nur Cebi, Besiktas' representative at the draw today. "We will knock Liverpool out of the competition. There is an account which wasn't settled in England from previous years. Yes, that 8-0 defeat. We will settle that account now."
The first leg of the tie will be played at Anfield on February 19th, with the second leg at Ataturk stadium—the site of 2005's Champions League final—on February 26th. Elsewhere, the two other English clubs involved in the Europa League group stages received easier draws, as Everton were matched up with BSC Young Boys and Tottenham will face Fiorentina.
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