By Matt Gatward
Besiktas JK will be hoping for another parsimonious display from their unheralded defence as they attempt to recover from a 1-0 defeat at the Stadio Olimpico and advance from their quarter-final against S.S. Lazio on Thursday.
Besiktas are three points clear of Galatasaray SK at the Turkish Super League's summit largely because of a miserly back line which has conceded just 14 goals in 23 games this season; by some way the best in a division in which the Istanbul club remain unbeaten.
That enviable record stems mainly from the understanding enjoyed by Brazilian duo Ronaldo Guiaro and António Carlos 'Zago'. Zago provides the cover and is often employed as a man-marker, while Guiaro is the organiser at the heart of the Besiktas rearguard. The pair are vociferously kept on their toes by Oscar Córdoba, yet the goalkeeper will have a new man in front of him in the second leg as Zago is suspended.
Besiktas are not just a defensive outfit, however, and have averaged almost two goals a game domestically. In attack, Ilhan Mansiz, who has scored consistently all season, and Daniel Pancu, a skilful Romanian who was formerly a midfield player, also combine to great effect. On the rare occasions that these two have failed to hit the target, Besiktas have been saved by Ahmet Dursun - a man with a knack of scoring timely goals.
Coach Mircea Lucescu, another Romanian and the only foreign manager in Turkey, is able to call on Ibrahim Üzülmez for the first time in three weeks for the visit of Lazio and Frenchman Pascal Nouma is available following a recovery from 'flu. Tümer Metin and Bayram Bektas miss out, but Lucescu remains bullish. "We have eliminated some very strong teams," he said. "Now we want to go one better than that."
'Careful and disciplined'
The pivot about which much of Besiktas' play turns is Sergen Yalçin, and the midfielder is also confident his side will progress. "We are going to play a hard 90 minutes," he said. "
It will be tough but we will be the side who will advance. We need to be careful and disciplined throughout. Also, I expect support and patience from our fans from the start to the end of the game."
Fine debut season
Like Besiktas, Lazio are enjoying a fine season under their fledgling coach, Roberto Mancini. The former Italian international has got the Biancocelesti playing some slick football which has won admirers as well as points - Lazio are fourth in Serie A and eyeing third-placed AC Milan.
The man who scored the decisive goal in Rome last week, Simone Inzaghi, will not feature at the Inönü stadium. The 27-year-old has failed to shake off 'flu, leaving Enrico Chiesa and Claudio López as the likely spearheads. "We are really motivated," said López.
The Argentinian, who scored his 12th goal of the season in Lazio's 4-1 win against Empoli FC on Sunday, added: "Almost all of us are available for this match and everyone would really like to play. It's a difficult decision for Mancini but it says everything about the spirit of our team.
We have to use the spaces they will leave us and try to score with our counterattacks." Easier said than done against the Besiktas rearguard.
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