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Mixed emotions for Gerrard in Istanbul


Steven Gerrard celebrates another Liverpool goal

Steven Gerrard celebrates another Liverpool goal

Steven Gerrard celebrates another Liverpool goal

Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard is set to return to the scene of his greatest triumph in Istanbul - but will be hoping to avoid another costly slip when coming up against Demba Ba and Besiktas in the last 32 of the Europa League.

The Reds, who failed to make it out of their Champions League group, were handed a return to the Ataturk Arena, where they famously won the European Cup under Rafa Benitez in 2005. Jerzy Dudek, their goalkeeper on that occasion, also assisted with yesterday's draw.

While Gerrard inspired the Liverpool comeback on their own historic night in Turkey, the former England captain will need no reminding of what happened the last time he faced former Chelsea frontman Ba, when he lost his footing to gift the Senegal striker the opening goal at Anfield in a 2-0 defeat in late April that proved so costly as the title dream faded for Brendan Rodgers' side.

Former Liverpool midfielder Dietmar Hamann, who was also part of the 2005 final team, warned there should be no complacency against Besiktas, who are managed by Slaven Bilic and topped their Europa League group ahead of Tottenham.

"Besiktas is not an easy draw - away to Turkey is a very tough place to go, it's usually a very hostile crowd," he said.

"It might be a bit easier this time because they are playing at the Ataturk, where the Champions League final was played in 2005; there is a (running) track around the pitch, so it shouldn't be too noisy."

"But nevertheless, (Besiktas) played Arsenal in the Champions League qualifying round at the start of this season and held them to a draw in Istanbul.

"Everybody thought it was a foregone conclusion that Arsenal would go through, but they scraped through with a 1-0 win.

"Demba Ba is in their ranks and has scored five goals in Europa League games this season, and they are top of the league.

"Don't underestimate them, but if the (Liverpool) team plays to the potential that they can, I expect them to get to the last 16.

"The rules have been changed and the winners get a spot in the Champions League, which would be a tremendous achievement."

Liverpool have faced Besiktas twice before, in the Champions League group phase of 2007, losing 2-1 away from home before recording an 8-0 victory in the reverse fixture at Anfield.

Ba maintains Besiktas should not expect Liverpool's current troubles to impact on their challenge come 2015.

"Liverpool are having some hard times now. They couldn't get the results they desired and things are not going well for them (but) hard games are ahead of us," he said.

"If we can snatch a good result in the first leg, it will be an advantage to be playing the second leg at home."

Celtic boss Ronny Deila is confident his men will be up for the battle against another of Europe's most famous names.

He told the official Celtic website: "We are meeting a big opponent, but we always have a chance.

"Everything is possible, however, and we have everything to play for. We will have to be at our best in both games to hopefully go through.

"The history adds to the match and every training exercise and match will be to prepare us as good as possible for the matches."

Tottenham will also face Italian opposition in the form of Fiorentina, while Everton were drawn against Swiss side Young Boys in the first tie out of the UEFA pots.

Everton club ambassador Ian Snodin confidently targeted going all the way to Warsaw.

"Spectators have travelled in their thousands to Lille and to Wolfsburg and the players are enjoying it, but first and foremost you want to win the competition. Everton need some silverware, it's been a long, long time," the former Toffees midfielder said.

Sevilla, the competition's last ever defending champions as this season's winners will instead qualify for the Champions League, face Bundesliga side Borussia Monchengladbach.

The first-leg matches will be played on February 19, with the return fixtures seven days later.

Roma, second in Serie A, will face Feyenoord in one of the stand-out ties from the remainder of the draw, while Feyenoord's Eredivisie rivals PSV Eindhoven take on Zenit St Petersburg and Ajax face Legia Warsaw.

Wolfsburg will play Sporting Lisbon, Napoli, managed now by Benitez, face Trabzonspor, while Torino take on Athletic Bilbao in some of the other higher-profile ties.