When Real Madrid drew Galatasaray in the UEFA Champions League quarterfinal draw, some los Blancos fans breathed a heavy sigh of relief.
Opposing fans bemoaned the "easy draw" the capital club had escaped with, especially considering two heavyweights in Bayern Munich and Juventus were paired together.
But no one should be quick to dismiss Turkey's sole representative in this competition, and their tactical flexibility is one prime reason Jose Mourinho won't be underestimating his opposition.
Gala may only have scraped through Group F on the head-to-head ruling over Cluj, but its disrespectful to label them the one-man team they appear on paper.
Burak Yilmaz's eight goals—tied with Cristiano Ronaldo at the top of stat boards—were a major factor, but Fatih Terim has plenty in the tank to keep his side interesting.
First and foremost being his tactical flexibility.
Terim has been struggling to find the right formula that incorporates Burak and new acquisition Didier Drogba in the same side. The 4-4-2 worked in the Group Stages, and it works to an extent against lesser sides in the Turkish Super Liga, but in the UCL possession is king.
European football is slower than its domestic variant, and controlling the tempo of the game is half the battle on the big nights to come.
Drawing with Schalke in the Round of 16 home leg wasn't ideal, but Terim reminded us why he's an elite European coach in the second leg.
He produced a 4-4-2 narrow midfield diamond for the away tussle, combining his two best strikers in a formation that didn't see them consistently under the cosh.
Felipe Melo took a restricted role at the base of the diamond, recycling possession well, throwing a blanket of security over his two centre-backs and tackled firmly when necessary (totaling six).
Selcuk Inan took the left side in a flat midfield position, Hamit Altintop took the right. This allowed Wesley Sneijder, the other celebrated January coup, to take up his natural No. 10 role and dictate play from "in the hole."
Despite the formation's infancy, it looked pretty well polished on account of the hardworking nature of the players on the field, and it looked efficient both defensively and offensively.
It controlled the tempo of the game and allowed Gala to enjoy possession for possession's sake—a tactic that's useful for an away side trying to stem the enthusiasm and flow of a home side needing a goal.
When Schalke used the flanks, either Selcuk or Altintop would come touchline wide to close them down and maintain the pressing methods in use, essentially dropping into a 4-3-1-2 at times.
On the ball deep in their own territory, Gala are confident enough in the passing game to bypass the lack of width in the formation (and not ask Emmanuel Eboue or Albert Riera to shuttle forward constantly) while consistently finding Sneijder in between the lines.
With Drogba up front route one can also work, meaning Terim's side have the ability to play in several different ways using just one formation.
When Jose Mourinho and Real Madrid welcome their Turkish opponents to the Santiago Bernabeu on April 3, no one knows how Gala will unfold tactically.
It's this flexibility and ability to vary their methods that make the Super Liga leaders a serious contender in the tie—write them off at your own peril.
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