As Paris Saint-Germain joust with Arsenal for top spot in their group, Napoli, Benfica and Besiktas will battle it out Tuesday for last 16 Uefa Champions League slots.
The Group B trio all have everything to play for in their final pool games as the only one of the eight first phase groups where no side has yet secured a berth.
Portugal’s Benfica, European champions back in 1961 and 1962 in their halcyon days but who have underachieved since, should have secured their passage on matchday five but threw away a three-goal lead at Besiktas.
That Turkish comeback, rekindling memories of Liverpool’s historic 2005 Istanbul triumph, has left the group outcome on a knife-edge with Besiktas knowing that a win at eliminated Dynamo Kiev will send them through.
In contrast, the final round of games pits Benfica against a Napoli side who beat them 4-2 back on matchday two in Italy — while Besiktas were dropping home points against Kiev.
The Turkish side’s subsequent win in Italy threw the group wide open and the 14-time national champions’ refusal to surrender against Benfica means they now fancy their chances.
Besiktas will hope that their best previous showing — a 1987 European Cup quarter-final appearance — will not prove a poor omen. Back then, they lost 7-0 on aggregate — to Kiev.
Turkish daily Sabah expressed concern Sunday about the weather in Kiev predicting that sub-zero temperatures and snow could spell “danger”. The paper added Aras Ozbiliz, Anderson Talisca and Caner Erkin are on the treatment table and set to miss out.
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