The name İstanbul Başakşehir may not be too familiar but a handful of their players are well-known on British shores. A trip to Turkey and a meeting with old foes is the potential reward for either Burnley or Aberdeen when they meet in the second round of Europa League qualification over the next fortnight.
A club on the rise
The first leg at Pittodrie begins this Thursday before the sides meet in the second leg at Turf Moor next week. A victory for either side will see the following two Thursdays host the third round match against İstanbul Başakşehir with a Premier League opener for Burnley against Southampton scheduled on the Sunday in between.
The Turkish side made it to this stage of the competition after finishing third in the Super Lig last time out. The campaign was the next successful step in an impressive return to the top-flight after finishing fourth twice following promotion in 2014. Relegated just a season before, the side from the Turkish capital almost folded before a new board took the reigns of the club.
After missing out on qualification for the Europa League group stages in 2016 and 2017, losing to AZ Alkmaar and Shakhtar Donetsk respectively, İstanbul Başakşehir experienced the environment for the first time last season. A narrow defeat to Sevilla in a Champions League playoff saw them pitted in a group with Braga, Hoffenheim and Ludogorets where they finished third.
The progress of the side is largely down to an influence of experienced professionals, with a handful vastly knowledgeable of the Premier League. Emmanuel Adebayor has represented no less than four English clubs, along with a brief spell at Real Madrid, and now leads the line. At 34, his best years might be behind him but he has netted 24 goals in 52 matches during 18 months at İstanbul Başakşehir.
The side is captained by 37-year old Emre Belözoğlu who played 82 times for Newcastle between 2005 and 2008. He is supported in midfield by Kerim Frei, once of Cardiff, Birmingham and Fulham, along with Gökhan İnler who disappointed at Leicester City, playing just five games.
32-year old Gael Clichy played over 300 games for Arsenal and Manchester City during 15 years in England and provides experience in defence but the standout quality is undoubtedly provided by Barcelona loanee Arda Turan. However, the local boy who is on a 30-month loan deal tainted his copybook when he was banned for 16 games after pushing an assistant referee back in February.