UEFA Champions League: Previewing Galatasaray vs. Schalke
With the UEFA Champions League Round of 16 getting into full swing, one of the lesser-anticipated matchups just could turn out to be one of the most interesting ties of the round.
Turkish side Galatasaray were drawn against Schalke, with the Germans set to visit Turkey for the first leg on Wednesday.
Though Schalke ended top of Group B ahead of Arsenal, they arguably start off as the lesser-fancied side to progress through to the quarterfinals. Schalke currently lie in ninth place in the German Bundesliga, a full seven points off the fourth spot which could see them regain a Champions League place for next season.
Galatasaray, by contrast, finished second in Group H behind Manchester United and ahead of CFR Cluj by virtue of head-to-head results.
They are currently top of the Turkish Super League, six points clear of rivals Fenerbahce and looking good to retain the title they won last season.
Home and Away
With the first leg being played in Turkey, the emphasis will be on Galatasaray to build a commanding lead to take back to Germany.
This season's form from both sides shows how Gala have to be heavy favourites to do so. While they have only lost once in their domestic league at home all season, away from the Turk Telecom Arena, they've won only five from 12 in the league—though two of their three group stage wins in the Champions League came in away matches.
In the last game week, Galatasaray came from behind to beat Sporting Braga 2-1, with Aydin Yilmaz's match-winning goal coming just 12 minutes from full time—without it, Gala would have been eliminated in third place.
While Schalke have been unimpressive in the Bundesliga, their Champions League form has been far more impressive.
Schalke cruised through their group stage unbeaten, with three wins and three draws. A 2-0 win at Arsenal and victories home and away over Olympiacos clearly show there is talent remaining in the team, even if domestically they have encountered consistency issues.
Only two wins away from home all season point to the trip to Turkey being a difficult one for Schalke to endure, and they will hope that their European away form turns up as opposed to their league form.
Burak Yilmaz is the standout name in the Galatasaray squad who will be a huge danger to Schalke. The Turkish striker has scored six goals in the Champions League so far, with only Aydin Yilmaz also making the scoresheet this season for the Turks.
Burak has been the go-to man for goals, having scored another 12 in league play this term.
The right flank, with Emmanuel Eboue and Hamit Altintop, also gives plenty of quality and experience.
Not only that, but January saw Galatasaray boost their squad with two major signings, both of whom can play in the Champions League this season—Didier Drogba and Wesley Sneijder.
Who will progress over the two legs?
Schalke will look to three men in particular as their route through this tie: centre-back Benedikt Howedes to stop Burak Yilmaz and attackers Farfan and Klaas Jan Huntelaar as the sources of chances and goals.
Huntelaar has four Champions League goals so far this season; if he can find one more in Turkey, it would significantly boost Schalke's chances of progression.
Without an away goal to take into the second leg for Schalke, Galatasaray could be looking at wrapping things up early on if they build up a commanding lead of their own.
Galatasaray to triumph on aggregate, without losing either leg.
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