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The Gunners kick off their Champions League campaign in Istanbul on Tuesday in the first leg of a crucial playoff, but who are the main men they must stop?

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By Will Martin

Fresh from a last-gasp victory over Crystal Palace on the opening day of the Premier League season, Arsenal head to Istanbul to face off against Besiktas, last season's third-placed finishers in the Turkish Super Lig.

Led by former Croatia boss, Slaven Bilic, Besiktas entered this year's Champions League in the third qualifying round, where they made light work of Dutch side Feyenoord home and away to secure a 5-2 aggregate victory.

The Black Eagles will come into Tuesday's playoff first leg buoyed by this result, and look likely to provide Arsene Wenger and his men with a stern test. Here we look at a handful of players who could well influence the clash in Istanbul.

Demba Ba

Fresh off the back of a reported €10 million summer transfer from Chelsea, Ba wasted no time in making his mark in the Turkish capital, scoring a hat-trick against Feyenoord on his full debut.

The Senegalese striker impressed during five seasons in England, scoring 50 goals in all competitions, including consecutive Premier League campaigns where he hit double figures for Newcastle United. Famed for his clinical finishing, Ba averaged a goal every 1.6 shots for Chelsea last season and will surely provide a fierce and familiar challenge for Arsenal's back four.

Atiba Hutchinson

Veteran Canadian Hutchinson comes into Tuesday's game on the back of a solid pre-season and two sterling performances against Feyenoord in the previous round of qualifying. The 31-year-old central midfielder, who can also be utilised on the right side of defence, has enjoyed spells in Sweden, Denmark and the Netherlands during a career spanning more than a decade.

Capped 67 times by his country, Hutchinson is considered one of the greatest players in Canadian history, a fact reflected by his inclusion in the all-time Canada XI in 2012. Operating in the engine room of the pitch, Hutchinson will be tireless in his shielding of Besiktas' back four - a vital role against the Gunners' midfield riches - whilst also posing a threat going forward.


Stranglehold | Besiktas gave Feyenoord's attack no room to breathe

Olcay Sahan

German-born winger Sahan, capped 12 times by Turkey, has enjoyed two highly productive seasons in Istanbul following his transfer from Kaiserslautern in 2012. In his debut term, Sahan bagged 11 goals and six assists, whilst last time out he was equally impressive, netting eight times and setting up a further nine.

Diminutive in stature, Sahan operates mainly on the left side of the field, and is renowned in Turkey for his pace and work rate. Also able to play through the middle, the lively attacker will likely provide a serious challenge to Arsenal's full-backs.

Tolga Zengin

Six-foot four-inch shot-stopper Zengin was a dominant presence between the posts for Besiktas last season following a summer move from Trabzonspor. He kept 11 clean sheets - a league high - and conceded the second fewest number of goals in Turkey.

Capped eight times by his country, the goalkeeper will provide a stern test for Arsenal's attacking talent, and Alexis Sanchez, Aaron Ramsey and co. will need to be at their brilliant best to beat the 30-year old.

Pedro Franco

Former Millionarios defender Franco comes into the new season having just missed out on a trip to the World Cup with Colombia. Reportedly targeted by Manchester City in the past, Franco rose to prominence after winning the best defender award at the 2011 Toulon Tournament.

Relatively small for a centre-back, the 23-year-old is nonetheless good in the air. He is comfortable on the ball, frequently helping to launch attacks for his side. Strong in the tackle, getting past the Colombian will prove no mean feat.

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