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Aug 18, 2014

Besiktas confident ahead of Arsenal

The ESPN FC panel discuss Arsenal's Champions League playoff tie against Turkish side Besiktas.

Besiktas coach Slaven Bilic fully expects Arsenal to have shaken off their sluggish start to the new domestic season when they clash in the first leg of a crunch Champions League play-off at the Ataturk Olympic Stadium.

Gunners boss Arsene Wenger admitted his men lacked their usual fluency against Crystal Palace on Saturday, when they came from behind to secure a 2-1 victory through Aaron Ramsey's stoppage-time goal.

Arsenal are still missing World Cup winning trio Per Mertesacker, Mesut Ozil and Lukas Podolski while 30 million-pound summer-signing Alexis Sanchez showed glimpses of his potential on a first foray into the hustle-and-bustle of English football.

Former Everton and West Ham defender Bilic, however, knows just what Wenger's slick passing side are capable of.

"We are ready with everything for this game," the Croatian said. "We know very well the opponent and have prepared well.

"We have respect for our opponents, because we are playing against one of the strongest teams in Europe.

"We have a game plan, and the players have to implement this plan."

Bilic continued: "Arsenal, though, will also be ready for this match, they have quality players and we are well aware of what we are playing against.

"Arsenal are the favourites, but we also try our best. We have a dream and we will do our best to make it happen."

Forward Mustafa Pektemek is confident Besiktas, whose home stadium is being redeveloped, can take a positive return back to England.

"We are expecting a tough match, but we want to get a good result in front of our own fans to then go to London," he said. "Every day we are form is improving and our goal is to maintain this pace."

Midfielder Atiba Hutchinson has a hamstring problem and is rated as only 50/50 to be able to play against Arsenal.

Whatever side the Gunners field, though, Bilic maintains his men must not become starstruck by some of the Premier League's best-known faces as they look to reach the group stages of the Champions League for the first time since 2009-10.

"We won't be doing on-the-pitch selfies with Alexis Sanchez, [Mikel] Arteta or [Olivier] Giroud," the Besiktas manager said at a news conference. "We are not here to swap shirts with them -- no, we are a big club too.

"The logos behind us say more than a thousand words -- look at that [UEFA Champions League] backdrop and you see the importance of this game. It is a massive game not only for this generation, but for the history of Besiktas.

"Yes, Arsenal are one of the best teams in Europe, but we have a plan and we are going to make it happen."

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