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Sanlı on Beşiktaş's chances against Arsenal

UEFA.com sat down with Sanlı Sarıalioğlu, who represented Beşiktaş JK with distinction between 1961 and 1975, to discuss the Arsenal FC tie and the "excellent" Demba Ba.

Beşiktaş's 1966/67 title-winning team with Sanlı Sarıalioğlu fourth from the left
Beşiktaş's 1966/67 title-winning team with Sanlı Sarıalioğlu fourth from the left ©Beşiktaş JK

Beşiktaş JK's UEFA Champions League play-off tie with Arsenal FC will evoke memories for older Black Eagles fans of the Turkish club's home friendly against the Londoners in May 1966. Sanlı Sarıalioğlu, a two-time title-winning striker who scored 66 goals in 315 league matches for the Istanbul side between 1961 and 1975, spoke to UEFA.com about that day 48 years ago and his hopes that the current crop can "cause a shock" against "possibly the toughest team in the round".

UEFA.com: What are your thoughts on the tie?

Sanlı Sarıalioğlu: Beşiktaş were drawn against possibly the toughest team in the round. Arsenal have earned the appreciation of many with their successful run over a long period and even some people in Turkey have affection for them. Their achievements in the English Premier League and UEFA Champions League are obvious.

UEFA.com: How do you rate Beşiktaş's chances of reaching the group stage?

Sarıalioğlu: Nobody should expect Beşiktaş to give up the fight just because their opponents are Arsenal. Anything can happen and any result can be achieved in football. On the other hand, it's a fact that Arsenal are stronger than Beşiktaş. However, tactics can cause favourites to lose a game and sometimes the underdogs triumph. As Beşiktaş are playing the first leg at home they should be very careful in their defending. It's a must that they keep a clean sheet in Istanbul. Any goal they score would be a big advantage.

They should get men behind the ball when Arsenal have possession and mount fast breaks and be quick in their build-up play. They must also look for goals in the return leg otherwise a victory might be difficult. Slaven Bilić bravely fielded his team with this mentality against Feyenoord [in the third qualifying round] so I expect to see entertaining games in both legs. If Beşiktaş can build on their previous performance and catch Arsenal on a bad day they could cause a shock.

UEFA.com: What are Beşiktaş’s strengths?

Sarıalioğlu: The addition of Demba Ba and the permanent signing of winger Gökhan Töre are wise moves from the club. After parting company with Hugo Almeida, Ba's inclusion is very good. His first touch and dribbling skills are excellent. Even though he was not physically at his peak, he scored three goals [against Feyenoord].

Also, striker Mustafa Pektemek has developed significantly since the start of pre-season and gave a great performance against Feyenoord. Although Ba scored a hat-trick in the return leg, hard-working Mustafa was the hero of the match in my opinion. If he continues to perform like this, he can play for any club in Europe, including Arsenal, and so can Ba. Beşiktaş have key attackers like Gökhan Töre and Olcay Şahan.

Sanlı Sarıalioğlu likes Demba Ba
Sanlı Sarıalioğlu likes Demba Ba©Beşiktaş JK

Furthermore, the fans provide exceptional motivation for Beşiktaş, especially when they play at home. Thanks to this they produce many good results against big teams in Europe. We still remember their 2-0 away victory against Chelsea in the 2003/04 season.

UEFA.com: What are your memories of the game against Arsenal in 1966?

Sarıalioğlu: We faced Arsenal in a testimonial for the famous Beşiktaş player Recep Adanır, who had great technique and shooting skills. Sadly, I missed the match due to injury. Although it was a friendly, Beşiktaş were far superior to Arsenal.

UEFA.com: Could Beşiktaş's victory in that game inspire Bilić's players?

Sarıalioğlu: I don't think so, but it shows that you shouldn't have any preconceptions in football. None of the Turkish teams today are dominated any more by bigger teams in Europe.

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