Soccer Europa Conference - Play-Offs 16 March 2023
Basaksehir vs Gent - Match Preview
The first leg of this UEFA Europa Conference League (UECL) match between Başakşehir and Gent was drawn 1-1 in appalling weather conditions, leaving the tie on a knife-edge. Dry weather is expected in Istanbul and the hosts need the winds of change to blow through as they haven’t won a competitive game in five attempts (D2, L3), leaving them struggling to qualify for Europe next term, particularly via the domestic route.
Winning the UECL is potentially their best shot at securing continental football next season and the Grey Owls can take one step closer to doing so by extending their unbeaten run in European home competition this term (W4, D2). The home faithful will likely be expectant considering they scored three goals in each of their three UECL group games here, while the fact they’ve never lost a home game against Belgian opponents (W1, D1) only serves to heighten those expectations.
In stark contrast to their hosts, Gent come into this clash full of confidence after hammering Waregem 6-2 to remain in the hunt for a top-four place in Belgium’s top flight. That result forms part of a run of just one defeat from their last six matches (W4, D1), including the penalty shootout win over Qarabağ that earned them their place in the UECL last 16.
The Buffalos will likely have to draw on all that confidence as they hit the road on the back of a seven-match winless European away run (D2, L5) and they’ll need to shed that reputation as poor travellers if they’re to progress to the last eight. One crumb of comfort for the travel-sick Belgians is that they won their only previous European away game in Turkey, although that was back in 2016/17 when they beat Konyaspor 1-0 in the UEFA Europa League.
📋 Players to watch: Stefano Okaka’s first-leg strike for Başakşehir was the fourth of his last five to arrive before half-time, while his club has never lost a game in which he netted (W11, D4). Gift Orban scored four times for Gent against Waregem, taking his tally to six in his last three games, five of which came after the 50th minute.
⚡ Hot streak: Each of Başakşehir’s last four UECL games witnessed scoring before the 20th minute (W2, D1, L1).
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