Unbeaten in seven games, Slaven Bilić is backing Beşiktaş JK to stretch that run and get the win needed to pinch top spot in Group C off Tottenham Hotspur FC.
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Beşiktaş JK coach Slaven Bilić is confident his in-form side can oust Tottenham Hotspur FC to take first place in Group C when the teams meet on matchday six.
The Black Eagles have won six of their last seven matches in all competitions since a 2-0 reverse against Fenerbahçe SK in the Turkish Super League on 2 November. Still unbeaten in this season's UEFA Europa League, Beşiktaş occupy second spot behind Mauricio Pochettino's Tottenham and need three points in Istanbul to reach the round of 32 as group winners. "Although everything is decided in the group, it's still an important game," said Bilić. "We still want to finish first, so we're going to give everything we can."
Demba Ba converted a late penalty to earn Beşiktaş a 1-1 draw in north London on matchday two but the hosts must win – and end Spurs' 18-game undefeated streak in the UEFA Europa League group stage – to grab pole position. "We're on a good run and we would like that to continue," said Bilić. "We are playing against a team who play in one of the best leagues in the world. It's a good challenge for us."
Top scorer Ba misses out with a toe injury while Mustafa Pektemek (cheekbone), Uğur Boral (knee), Tomáš Sivok (hamstring) and Cenk Gönen (chest) are also sidelined and Atiba Hutchinson suspended, but Bilić remains optimistic his side can overcome those absentees. "We are quite confident about winning the game, although those who will miss the match are really important players for us. We are playing Tottenham and that alone should be enough to motivate the players."
While Beşiktaş have their injury troubles, Tottenham welcome back England right-back Kyle Walker, who has not featured since March due to an abdominal problem. "It's been difficult mentally and physically," said the 24-year-old. "I've had to dig deep. I just want to move on now. I've been able to work on aspects of my game that I wouldn't have done had I been playing week in, week out. I feel fit and perfect. I'm ready to put my career back on track. I still feel I need to work hard on and off the field. There's a big learning step still."
His manager Pochettino described the UEFA Europa League as "a very important, tough competition" and is anticipating a stern test at the Atatürk Olimpiyat Stadium. "We expect a tough contest because Beşiktaş are a very good team. We want the victory to finish top of the group and this is a chance for players who haven't played the last few games to show their quality. [Beşiktaş's missing players] bring quality but they're a good team anyway. It won't be a friendly."