Istanbul-based Çetin Cem Yılmaz gives five reasons why Turkish league high-fliers Beşiktaş should have enough away to Sporting CP this week to book a place in the round of 32.
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Three teams go into the final round of UEFA Europa League matches with ambitions of advancing from Group H, and two will meet in Lisbon when Sporting CP host Beşiktaş. The home side have rediscovered their form at just the right time but, says Istanbul-based Çetin Cem Yılmaz, section leaders Beşiktaş will start as favourites. Here is why ...
Strike force to fear
Mario Gomez has scored 11 goals in 18 appearances this term, only three fewer than he amassed with Fiorentina over the past two seasons combined. Spurred by the offer of a spot in Germany's UEFA EURO 2016 squad, Gomez has been playing with a renewed sense of urgency. Even when he is having the odd off day, Cenk Tosun is a reliable back-up, with two goals and an assist to his name in two UEFA Europa League starts.
Şenol Güneş is not a big rotator, but he likes to keep his attacking midfield personnel on their toes. Only three of Ricardo Quaresma, Gökhan Töre, Olcay Şahan, José Sosa and Kerim Frei can play behind Gomez/Cenk, so there is incentive to make the most of their chances. Quaresma, the Sporting academy product with plenty of reason to shine on his return to Lisbon, has scored one and set another up in his last two appearances, both as a substitute, in European competition.
Beşiktaş possess a strong core, with Atiba Hutchinson and Oğuzhan Özyakup a perfect marriage in midfield. Hutchinson has experience and risk-free distribution (he has completed more passes than any other player in the UEFA Europa League); Oğuzhan possesses youthful enthusiasm and the killer pass.
Beşiktaş's tally of 32 goals in 14 Süper Lig outings in 2015/16 eclipses the rest, but in Europe they have put their faith in defensive resolve. Only Napoli have a better defensive record in the group stage and though Ersan Gülüm could miss the Sporting decider with a knock, Güneş has options at the back. Serbian international Duško Tošić is likely to fill the void alongside Rhodolfo.
Not many visiting teams leave the José Alvalade with points, but Beşiktaş are well-versed in making the most of away days. Since waving goodbye to the İnönü Stadium while it undergoes renovations, the Black Eagles have been moved around temporary venues to such an extent that the lines between home and away have been blurred. Beşiktaş are unbeaten on their travels this season.