Liverpool FC were paired with Besiktas in Monday’s draw in Nyon in the last 32 of the Europa League.
The Reds were unseeded after their premature exit from the Champions League. The first leg of the clash will be played at Anfield on Thursday 19 February, and the return leg would be played in Istanbul a week later. Liverpool will return to the Ataturk Stadium, the place where they won (somehow!) the famous 2005 Champions League final for the return leg of the fixture.
Besiktas are managed by former Everton defender Slaven Bilic. They lost to Arsenal in the qualifying stage of the tournament and came to the Europa League as a result of that. They topped their group, ahead of Tottenham, Asteras Tripolis and Partizan Belgrade. They beat Tottenham 1-0 last week in the final group match as a result of which, they topped their grop. They sit on top of the Turkish Super Lig, a point clear of Galatasaray.
The last encounter between the two clubs at Anfield was in November 2007, and the visitors suffered an embarrassing 8-0 defeat, which is currently the biggest margin for a win in the Champions League. The Turkish side, however, won the home fixture 2-1.
Another highly talked about feature of this meeting would be Demba Ba. The last time this striker was at Anfield, he did enough to dent Liverpool’s Premier League title hopes, as he famously latched on to a slip by Steven Gerrard, and tugged away the decisive goal. Ba has scored 16 goals in 18 games for his new club this term.
Liverpool will have a tough February now that it is stuffed with two Europa League fixtures. They will face Everton (Away) on 7th February. Three days later, on 10th February, Tottenham Hotspur come to Anfield to face the Reds. On 19th Feb, Liverpool plays Besiktas at home. Two days hence, on 21st of Feb, the Reds travel to St. Mary’s to face Southampton. Liverpool face Besiktas on 26th Feb in the away leg of the clash and two days later, on 28th Feb, last season’s league champions Manchester City come to Anfield. Six very tough and demanding games for Liverpool, who are badly struggling at the moment. The Saturday Premier League games are likely to be shifted to Sundays, but even then, its going to be very tiring for the side that doesn’t look like it can cope with too many games cramped together.
Liverpool do have the incentive of the Europa League winners qualifying for next season’s Champions League, which frankly, looks like their best bet to be in the elite European competition at the moment. The Reds need to sort themselves out before a very exhausting February comes around.