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Form sides face off

Published: Monday 15 September 2003, 20.00CET
Besiktas JK hope to reverse last season's UEFA Cup quarter-final defeat when S.S. Lazio visit Istanbul.

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Published: Monday 15 September 2003, 20.00CET

Form sides face off

Besiktas JK hope to reverse last season's UEFA Cup quarter-final defeat when S.S. Lazio visit Istanbul.

Besiktas JK earned their UEFA Champions League place after a blistering start to the 2002/03 Turkish Super League season - and they are in similar form as they prepare to welcome S.S. Lazio to Istanbul.

Perfect records
While much of the Group G focus has been on the record spending of Chelsea FC, who visit AC Sparta Praha, both Besiktas and Lazio are yet to drop a point this term, the Turkish champions having won all five opening league games.

Previous campaign
After streaking to their domestic title last season - remaining unbeaten in the league until April - Besiktas are hoping to improve on their last Champions League campaign of 2000/01, when they beat FC Barcelona but finished fourth in a first group stage pool also containing AC Milan and Leeds United AFC.

UEFA Cup defeat
Moreover, they have unfinished European business with Lazio, having lost 3-1 on aggregate to the Rome side in the 2002/03 UEFA Cup quarter-finals - including a 2-1 defeat at the Inönü stadium. "We are expecting a hard game," said Besiktas coach Mircea Lucescu. "Lazio play on the counterattack and have a very good defence. I hope we have learned our lesson from last season and we don't want to repeat those mistakes."

Strong squad
Besiktas are close to full strength, with Ahmet Dursun their only absentee with an ankle injury sustained in Friday's 3-1 victory against Malatyaspor. Tümer Metin, Tayfur Havutçu, Ahmed Hassan and Daniel Pancu all compete for two free midfield slots.

Mihajlovic out
Meanwhile, Lazio coach Roberto Mancini has seen his side make a fine domestic start with two Serie A victories, but defender Sinisa Mihajlovic injured his right thigh in Saturday's 2-1 win at UC Sampdoria and is ruled out.

Couto and Zauri in
Portuguese international Fernando Couto should take his place while ex-Atalanta BC midfield player Luciano Zauri is expected to make his Champions League group stage debut filling in for César, scorer of the goal in Portugal that secured a 4-1 aggregate third qualifying round victory against SL Benfica, who has a sore left foot.

Strike force
Strikers Bernardo Corradi and Claudio López were rested against Sampdoria after returning from international duty, yet are expected to start against Besiktas with Simone Inzaghi and Roberto Muzzi on the bench.

Istanbul memories
A Turkish side - Galatasaray SK - were responsible for Lazio's demise in their last Champions League appearance of 2001/02, the Italians never recovering from a 1-0 defeat in Istanbul on Matchday 1 to a side coached by former Internazionale FC and Brescia Calcio chief Lucescu. Indeed, Mancini is well aware of what his opponent is capable of. "Lucescu worked in Italy for a long time. All his teams play well. Besiktas work very hard during the game. We have a tough task, but we are ready for anything."

Different situation
Mancini also admitted that last season's victory would count for nothing at kick-off. "We came here last year with a 1-0 advantage," he said on Monday. "Tomorrow, it will be a league game and will be different."

Last updated: 15/09/03 20.56CET