6 Reasons Why Galatasaray Will Be No Pushover Against Real Madrid
There is no denying that Real Madrid are favourites to eliminate Galatasaray from the Champions League and progress to the semifinal round of Europe’s most prestigious club competition. On reputation, alone, Madrid are simply in another class.
Galatasaray, the reigning Turkish champions, have been past this stage in pursuit of the European Cup just once before, in 1989, when they were thumped 5-1 over two legs by Steaua Bucharest. Madrid, on the other hand, have won a record nine continental titles and are desperate to secure a historic 10th this spring at Wembley Stadium.
The mismatch, however, ends there.
As Galatasaray showed in the Round of 16, where they won 3-2 in Gelsenkirchen to eliminate Schalke, and in the Group Stage, where they beat Manchester United, they will be no pushover at any stage of this competition, no matter the opposition.
“If we think that Galatasaray will be an easy opponent, we are making a big mistake,” remarked Aitor Karanka, Madrid’s assistant coach, following Friday’s draw in Nyon, Switzerland (Marca). “Galatasaray have highly experienced players who used to play for us, and dangerous players like [Didier Drogba]. There’s a reason why any opponent is in the quarterfinals.”
Karanko knows first-hand the danger Galatasaray can pose. In 2001, when these two sides were drawn at the same stage of the Champions League, Real Madrid opened up a 2-0 lead in Istanbul only to concede three times in succession en route to a 3-2 defeat. The Spanish giants won the return leg at the Bernabeu, but by then they had learned how foolish it would be to take their opponents lightly.
They’d do well to remember that lesson this time around.
Galatasaray may be underdogs heading into the first leg of this quarterfinal on April 3, but by no means is the tie a foregone conclusion before a ball has even been kicked. The Turkish side will give a good account of themselves over the two matches. They may even progress. Following are six reasons why.
Madrid Will Concede
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No team remaining in the Champions League has conceded as many goals as Real Madrid. The Meringues have had to dig the ball out of their own net 11 times in eight matches and have yet to keep a clean sheet in the tournament.
Coming into Saturday’s Primera Division match against Mallorca, they had gone five matches without a clean sheet in all competitions and had recorded just two in their last 12 outings in all competitions.
Sergio Ramos and Raphael Varane were the go-to defensive pairing against Manchester United in the Round of 16, but even with Pepe’s return to health it is hardly a tandem that strikes fear into the hearts of opposition strikers.
Right-back Alvaro Arbeloa, in particular, is a weak spot, and if Galatasaray manager Fatih Terim opts to deploy Wesley Sneijder on the left flank as he has done previously, the Turks could get some joy on that side of the park.
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He has eight goals in the Champions League so far—a total that gives him a share of the scoring lead with Madrid talisman Cristiano Ronaldo.
In their preview of this quarterfinal Spanish outlet Marca made sure to point out the 27-year-old’s capabilities. “CR7 vs. Yilmaz: Champions Duel,” read their headline, and they went on to give an account of his goal in the Round of 16 first leg against Schalke, summarizing it as “a movement that can only be described as sublime.”
Yilmaz has scored in each of his last six Champions League matches and has also contributed 14 tallies in the Turkish Super Lig.
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The atmosphere inside Turk Telekom Arena is famously loud and intimidating, and Galatasaray have lost just once in the stadium in this season’s Champions League thus far.
But it has been their play away from home that has really impressed, and for that you’d only have to ask Schalke, who were beaten 3-2 by the Turkish champions in Gelsenkirchen on Tuesday.
Galatasaray have lost just three times on the road all season—one of which was the 1-0 defeat to Manchester United in mid-September that could easily have been a draw, or even a win—and have tasted defeat away from Turk Telekom only once this calendar year.
They’ll play the first leg of their Champions League quarterfinal in the Spanish capital, and if recent results are any indication they’ll be taking a decent scoreline back to Istanbul for the return match.
Surviving Schalke’s Second-Half Onslaught
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Galatasaray took a 2-1 lead into the break during the second leg of their Round of 16 encounter with Schalke, and despite an offensive barrage launched by their desperate hosts, they were able to sustain the onslaught and progress to the next round.
The Turks will likely be pinned back in their own half for extended spells against Real Madrid, but the mettle they showed in Gelsenkirchen indicates they’ll be anything but easy to break down, even for a side as gifted as the Spanish champions.
Uruguay international Fernando Muslera has faced more shots than any of the goalkeepers remaining in the competition, and yet his save percentage is superior to each of Roman Weidenfeller, Victor Valdes, Manuel Neuer and Iker Casillas. Felipe Melo provides a reliable shield in front of the back-four, and fellow midfielders Hamit Altintop and Selcuk Inan are adept at collapsing into a second wall of defense when needed.
Beating Real Madrid will require a committed team effort to defense, but if their second half in Gelsenkirchen can be used as any indication, they have what it takes to survive a bombardment.
The Sneijder and Drogba Factors
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Both Wesley Sneijder and Didier Drogba have played for Real Madrid manager Jose Mourinho, and both will be keen to pull one over their former boss over the two legs of this quarterfinal.
Galatasaray have lost just once in nine matches since acquiring the pair in January and both have quickly become integral members of what was already a very competitive side.
Sneijder, who has been used both centrally and out on the left, gives the Turkish giants a playmaking influence most teams could only dream of having, and in Drogba Galatasaray possess a veteran forward who has always had the knack of producing on the biggest stages.
Both players have also lifted the European Cup previously, so they add some credibility to their current team’s aspirations.
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The Galatasaray manager, who is in his third stint with the Istanbul side, was already a respected coach before guiding his team to an impressive victory over Schalke in the Round of 16.
Coming into the second leg in Gelsenkirchen, Terim changed his tactics from an aggressive 4-4-2 to a midfield diamond in which Sneijder operated just behind Drogba and Yilmaz, and Felipe Melo served as the anchor.
Felipe Melo’s role, in particular, was vital as it allowed him to pick up Julian Draxler, thus limiting Schalke’s playmaking options.
Whether Terim keeps the faith with this setup against Real Madrid is yet to be seen, but what he proved in the last round is that he is capable of, and not afraid to, set his tactics to neutralize the opposing threat. It wouldn’t be surprising, for example, if he deployed a flat midfield three to deal with Ronaldo.