Spanish champions Real Madrid will take on Turkish giants Galatasaray in the UEFA Champions League this week for the first leg of their quarterfinal matchup.
Both sides were forced to come from behind away from home in the round of 16 and showed tremendous attacking tenacity to do so—beating Manchester United and Schalke respectively in front of hostile crowds to set up a thrilling quarterfinal berth.
They'll both be looking for strong performances at the Bernabeu Stadium this week in order to set themselves up in a good position for the second leg.
Real Madrid will be expected to win this one given their attacking talent and home advantage, but Galatasaray certainly aren't an easy team to beat—especially if their attack can get going against Madrid's defense.
Who will emerge as a winner from this key quarterfinal? Read on for a full preview including all the need-to-know details, live viewing information and predictions.
Date: Wednesday, April 3, 2013
Start time: 2:45 p.m. ET (Eastern Time, United States)
Venue: Santiago Bernabeu Stadium, Madrid, Spain
Live Stream and TV Info
According to Live Soccer TV, Fox Soccer Channel, SiriusXM FC and FOX Deportes will all provide coverage of this game throughout the U.S.
Champions League Story So Far
W3, D2, L1
(15 goals for, eight against)
W3, D1, L2
(Seven goals for, six against)
W1, D1, L0 vs. Manchester United
(Three goals for, two against)
|Round of 16|
W1, D1, L0 vs. Schalke
(Four goals for, three against)
Key Player to Watch: Angel Di Maria, Real Madrid
Out of all the key players to watch in this one—least of which being superstar Cristiano Ronaldo—it's Angel Di Maria who will the biggest threat.
Di Maria was superb in both legs against Manchester United on the right flank, and will look to have similar success here against Galatasaray.
An enthusiastic player who loves to get the ball at his feet, Di Maria will be a big part of Madrid's counterattacking plan here, and his combination with other winger Cristiano Ronaldo will be pertinent to Los Blancos' chances of walking away with a win in this one.
If Di Maria can switch wings well and pick out his men in the middle, then Madrid will be in for a big night. Part of the onus there will rest in the finishing skills of Karim Benzema, Mesut Ozil and Ronaldo, but regardless, Di Maria will be a huge player to watch on the right flank.
His likely opponent—Albert Riera—averages a tremendous 2.9 tackles and 3.3 interceptions per game, which will hold him in good stead against Di Maria.
It's shaping up as a very good battle either way, and one that could define the game.
Biggest Storyline to Follow: Can Galatasaray's Attack Thrive in Madrid?
Galatasaray haven't been the biggest attacking team in the tournament so far, but their three goals away from home against Schalke suggests that they are turning the corner somewhat.
Burak Yilmaz has been potent all tournament, and now with Didier Drogba alongside him and Wesley Sneijder in behind the pair, Galatasaray have put together an attacking unit that is capable of scoring goals—as seen by the three they managed in Germany.
And while the trip to Madrid certainly won't be easy, the reality is that if you can score three goals in Germany, you can beat Los Blancos' defense.
Madrid has only kept one clean sheet from their last 11 games, and with some of those opponents carrying far less attacking threats than their Turkish opponents do here, it would seem more than likely that Galatasaray will find good opportunities to score in this one.
Whether they take those opportunities or not still remains to be seen.
Three Stats to Consider
1. Madrid have failed to score just once in their last 33 Champions League games, which came against Barcelona back in August 2011.
0. Galatasaray have not kept a clean sheet in their last 12 away games in the Champions League—something that doesn't look like changing against the best attacking team in the tournament. However, Madrid are also yet to record a clean sheet in the European competition this season.
3. Galatasaray have won their past three away games in the Champions League, beating CFR Cluj, Sporting Braga and Schalke.
In Madrid, it's hard to see Los Blancos losing this one.
Regardless of the attacking pressure and chances that Galatasaray will no doubt have throughout this game, it's hard not to see Madrid dominating possession and field position, and thus creating plenty of goal-scoring chances for themselves in the process.
Big question marks still remain about Los Blancos' defense coming into this one, and rightly so, but it's hard to see that being too big of an issue here.
The majority of this game will be spent in Galatasaray's half with Madrid attacking—switching the ball from one side to another and running with great purpose and direction. And when that happens, it's hard to see their defense coming under too much pressure in this one.
Madrid should attack, and attack often, and as good as the Turkish giants' defense is, they won't be able to handle everything that their opponent offers here.
Final score: Real Madrid 3, Galatasaray 0
Champions League? Hit me up for more—Follow @dantalintyre