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Although Serdar Özkan has emerged as a key man in Beşiktaş JK coach Ertuğrul Sağlam's lineup this season, the 20-year-old midfielder is not feeling the pressure ahead of the UEFA Champions League visit of Olympique de Marseille.
Only a home victory will revive the Group A challenge of a team smarting from a competition-record 8-0 reverse at Liverpool FC on Matchday 4. Yet if anyone knows about overcoming adverse situations it is Serdar Özkan. Under successive coaches – Mircea Lucescu, Vicente Del Bosque, Rıza Çalımbay and Jean Tigana – the academy graduate was unable to win a first-team place, even spending time on loan at second division clubs.
But since Sağlam took the hot seat, the winger or central midfielder has made the first 12 Turkish Süper Lig starts of his career, earning his first Turkey cap in the process. Now poised for a fifth straight UEFA Champions League appearance, he said: "We all know the importance of the Marseille game, but it is a big match for them too. Their [former Galatasaray AS] coach Erik Gerets has said a lot of things about the atmosphere at the Inönü Stadium, and I think this game will help to sort out the group."
Injury may deprive Beşiktaş of Serdar Kurtuluş, Gökhan Zan, İbrahim Kaş, Lamine Diatta and Mehmet Yozgatlı, but Serdar Özkan points to Saturday's 1-0 win at Gençlerbirligi Oftasspor as proof that the team can thrive without them. The No21 wants to move on from that miserable night at Anfield, which came in stark contrast to the 2-1 home victory over Liverpool, which was set up by his early shot deflecting in off Sami Hyypiä. "Suffering such a heavy defeat by Liverpool can't be forgotten but that's football. These things happen. It was played and now it's gone. That defeat will flash through our minds but will not affect us against Marseille."
More important than any Anfield ghosts, Serdar Özkan suggests, are the fans that roared them on to their sole success in the group so far. "There was an intense atmosphere at the Liverpool game," he recalled. "If the supporters can repeat that showing, we can claim another three points."
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