Champions League team guide: Besiktas in the spotlight

Tom Bodell
LiveScore
Veteran star Atiba Hutchinson will be a key figure in Besiktas’ midfield once again this season
Veteran star Atiba Hutchinson will be a key figure in Besiktas’ midfield once again this season

In the end, Besiktas made securing Champions League qualification for the first time in four years look relatively smooth — sealing their place in the group stage by winning the Turkish Super Lig.

However, a quick recap of their 2020-21 season confirms it was not straightforward. 

The Black Eagles were slow starters and found themselves 18th after winning just one of their opening four matches.

In fact, it was not until December 28 that Besiktas broke into the top two for the first time.

From there, Sergen Yalcin’s men were much improved and lost on just four occasions across the rest of the season, to clinch the title and a place in the Champions League.

Besiktas' Champions League group

Group C: Sporting Lisbon, Borussia Dortmund, Ajax, Besiktas

European history

This will be Besiktas’ first Champions League campaign since 2017-18, when they made it out of Group G as winners — ahead of Porto, RB Leipzig and Monaco.

However, this is just the seventh time the Black Eagles have qualified for the Champions League since 2000.

With the Turkish Super Lig only getting one automatic group stage spot since 2002, Besiktas have been handed a pathway to the tournament proper on just five occasions in the years that have followed.

Their best European Cup performance was in 1986-87 when they were eliminated in the quarter-finals by Dynamo Kyiv, going down 7-0 on aggregate.

Besiktas edged ahead of Galatasaray on goal difference to win the Turkish Super Lig in 2020-21
Besiktas edged ahead of Galatasaray on goal difference to win the Turkish Super Lig in 2020-21

Expectations

Given their fairly modest European history of late, Besiktas will hope for a repeat of 2017-18, when they dropped just four points en route to a last 16 meeting with Bayern Munich.

But the Bavarian giants ended the Black Eagles’ adventure with a resounding 8-1 aggregate win.

Expectations in Istanbul will only have risen after last season’s title success and the loan arrival of Chelsea striker Michy Batshuayi.

The addition of Basaksehir pair Mehmet Topal and Mert Gunok is indicative of Besiktas’ standing in Turkey, taking two players from the 2019-20 champions.

Michy Batshuayi will hope to improve on the two Premier League goals he scored on loan at Crystal Palace last season
Michy Batshuayi will hope to improve on the two Premier League goals he scored on loan at Crystal Palace last season

Star man: Cyle Larin

Batshuayi might have landed in Istanbul to a hero’s reception but the Batsman will have to play the role of Robin to last season’s 19-goal top scorer Cyle Larin, who was on target in Besiktas’ season opener.

The Canadian forward, 26, cut his teeth in Major League Soccer with Orlando City before moving to Europe in January 2018 for an undisclosed fee.

After struggling to adapt to life in Turkey, the 6ft 2in forward was loaned to Belgian side Zulte Waregem for the 2019-20 campaign. The move paid off, with Larin scoring nine times in all competitions.

Returning to Vodafone Park ahead of the 2020-21 season, Larin initially had to play second-fiddle to new signing Vincent Aboubakar. 

But after bagging the winner against Yeni Malatyaspor, he hit form and finished with 23 in all competitions.

Talismanic striker Cyle Larin will spearhead Besiktas' Champions League campaign in 2021-22
Talismanic striker Cyle Larin will spearhead Besiktas' Champions League campaign in 2021-22

One to watch: Atiba Hutchinson

Larin is not the only Canadian representation in a diverse squad — he followed in the footsteps of countryman Atiba Hutchinson by moving to Istanbul.

Hutchinson, 38, is Besiktas’ skipper and a stalwart of almost 300 appearances for the Black Eagles since joining from PSV Eindhoven in 2013.

Since then, the 85-cap Canadian international has bagged three Super Lig titles and the 2021 Turkish Cup. Hutchinson is also a six-time winner of the Canadian Player of the Year award.

The veteran midfielder signed a contract extension with Besiktas over the summer making this Hutchinson’s ninth season with the club — the longest he has served a single team in his career, which has included stops in Sweden, Denmark and the Netherlands.

The boss: Sergen Yalcin

Appointed in January 2020 with Besiktas in seventh, former player Yalcin guided the Black Eagles to a respectable third-place finish in his first half-season back at the club.

Yalcin, 48, had two spells with the Istanbul outfit as a player, making 173 appearances in his first stint between 1991 and 1997 before adding a further 127 between 2002 and 2006.

A goalscoring midfielder who won three league titles as a player, Yalcin retired in 2008 and took the reins at Gaziantepspor in 2013. Besiktas is his ninth senior managerial role and the longest period at any one club.

Usually deploying a 4-1-4-1 system with an emphasis on ball retention and possession — only Alanyaspor averaged a greater share of possession in Turkey’s top flight last season.

All information correct as of 10am, September 3, 2021

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