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.