Besiktas and Demba Ba return to test Liverpool in Europa League
Liverpool, odds-on at 4/7 with Coral to win this last 32 Europa League first leg fixture, will have fond memories of Turkish Super Lig side Besiktas’ last trip to Anfield.
The Merseysiders smashed the Black Eagles 8-0 in 2007 to keep their Champions League hopes alive and will now face Besiktas for just the second time on home turf, where they are 5/2 to score three or more again.
Prolific predator Daniel Sturridge is already back amongst the goals after returning from a lengthy spell on the sidelines, and is a super 7/2 punt to strike last, while reformed Mario Balotelli is 6/5 to make an impact and net anytime.
Skipper Steve Gerrard is the only current Reds player still remaining from that previous 8-0 rout and is also 7/4 to be on target in the anytime market, if fit to return following a hamstring injury.
Gerrard will not want to make his last European outing for Liverpool in the final 32 of this tournament, so back him at 6/1 to fire home first and thrill the Kop.
The Anfield icon will also welcome back a few familiar faces in the form of Besiktas boss Slaven Bilic, said to be a target for West Ham United, and fearsome frontman Demba Ba, but will be hoping they haven’t returned to haunt him.
Bilic was the Croatia coach who comforted Gerrard after preventing England from qualifying for Euro 2008, while bullish Ba benefited from the courageous captain’s now infamous slip against Chelsea last term, a mistake that cut short Liverpool’s title challenge.
Brilliant ex-Blues forward Ba has found his scoring boots again with Besiktas, who have a 5/1 chance of upsetting the apple cart with victory at Anfield.
Back Senegal striker Ba, who has 22 goals in 28 games for the Black Eagles, at generous odds of 8/1 to net last, or 11/4 in the anytime market.
Another Besiktas star with Chelsea links is tricky wingman Gokhan Tore (11/2). The Turkey international made 22 outings for the Stamford Bridge side’s Under-21 team, and has been mooted for a Premier League return with Manchester United.
Liverpool, meanwhile, are unbeaten in their last 17 duels over normal time and seem to have rectified their poor start to the season. However, Turkish league leaders the Black Eagles have also triumphed in 14 of their past 15 clashes, so, with both teams in top form, a draw at 11/4 could be a prudent punt.
Lazar Markovic is currently serving a four-match ban and will miss this crunch clash, while latest reports suggest Raheem Sterling could also be sidelined with a foot injury.