Besiktas vs. Arsenal: Date, Time, Live Stream, Champions League Play-off Preview

Rob Blanchette@@_Rob_BFeatured ColumnistAugust 18, 2014

Arsenal look to continue their winning start to the new season as they travel to Istanbul for a tricky Champions League play-off against Besiktas on Tuesday.

The Gunners will be looking to progress with as little fuss as possible, but they know any match in Turkey is always a challenge.

Here is how you can watch this European encounter:


When: Tuesday, Aug. 19, at 7:45 p.m. BST/2:45 p.m. ET

Where: Ataturk Olympic Stadium, Istanbul, Turkey

TV Info: Live on ITV and HD (UK only), Fox (U.S. only)

Live Stream: ITV Player (UK only) FoxSoccer2Go (U.S. only)


Fitness Concerns for Gunners

The Champions League play-offs always represent a nervous challenge for the teams involved, especially for bigger clubs like Arsenal, who have so much to lose.

Arsene Wenger's side snuck past a dogged Crystal Palace side on Saturday, amid much hype that this campaign will be the one that brings a league title back to the Emirates.

Now focus turns to Europe, where Besiktas offer Arsenal a credible challenge for a place in the group stage of the Champions League.

Wenger has selection issues before the tie. Laurent Koscielny and Kieran Gibbs are both doubts for the trip to Istanbul, putting increasing pressure on Arsenal's defensive options.

Wenger explained to the club's official website that he might have to rush back the club's German World Cup-winning contingent for the match:

We are desperate to do it because we want to play in the Champions League and we know how big these games are. We had to give a lot [against Crystal Palace], hopefully we will recover and be ready for Tuesday night.

We are desperate to go through, no matter what it costs we want to go through. We have always a difficult draw, we had Fenerbahce last year, this time we have Besiktas. It's difficult. 

We will assess Koscielny on Monday; if he's fit and capable to play, we play him. It was our plan to bring the Germans back in contention for Everton. But in case of emergency I will take Mertesacker.

More than just a convincing performance, Arsenal will be looking to bring a strong lead back to the Emirates for the second leg, with a heavy reliance on new signing Alexis Sanchez to provide the creative talent.

Aaron Ramsey also showed against Palace he has lost none of his goalscoring prowess after an injury-hit end to last season, and he will want to shine on the European stage this year.

The depth of the Gunners' squad could be key in this fixture, and for the rest of their campaign. Gibbs recently explained in a blog for, per Jim van Wijk's Mail Online report:

More players have arrived than departed and so the squad looks deeper than in previous seasons. 

There is now more competition for places, which is important for the team throughout the year. 

Hopefully, everyone can stay fit and well, because it should raise the performance of each individual player.

Arsenal made surprisingly hard work of a Palace team with no manager, but Sky Sports' Jamie Redknapp believes the result will push the Gunners on to bigger and better things:

Arsenal weren’t at their best, let’s not kid ourselves, but it’s such a big result. This time last year they lost 3-1 to Aston Villa and there was a lot of doom and gloom. These results, when you’re not at your best and pick up three points are so important for momentum.

But so early in the season, momentum is sometimes difficult to build. The Turkish side will be compact and difficult to penetrate. They are managed by Slaven Bilic, and his teams always display heart and competence. 

However, Arsenal have the talent to take the tie by the scruff of the neck, and if they show their best form in Istanbul, they can put the game to bed very early on.


Slaven Bilic Ready for Battle

Besiktas manager Slaven Bilic has spoken of his fears of facing Arsenal, describing them as "the last team we wanted" in the Champions League, per Joe Bernstein of The Mail on Sunday.

But the enigmatic coach explained that he loves the pressure of such situations and that his club's fans expect their team to win, per Bernstein:

They say Besiktas have 15 million fans in Turkey, and they expect. Our fans stop and tell me: 'Arsenal finished.' I worship the pressure. We are as close to them to qualifying for the Champions League.

Besiktas will be encouraged by their recent victory over English opposition: a 1-0 win against Chelsea in pre-season.

But Bilic will know that Arsenal pose a different kind of threat in a competitive-match environment. 

Besiktas will have to close down the Gunners' progressive passing style of football if they are to have any chance of taking a favourable scoreline back to London. Wenger will not want to see his team face a battle in the second leg, so it is likely that they will be in an explosive mood on Tuesday night.

But if Arsenal find it difficult to get out of blocks quickly in the game, Bilic's men will have the opportunity to punish them. In front of a fierce home support, don't be surprised if Arsenal are left with work to do back at the Emirates.


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