Real Madrid Face Galatasaray's Danger Men Old and New; Drogba, Sneijder & Bruma
Paul Gilham/Getty Images
If fans all over the world are itching for this week’s resumption of the Champions League group stages, you can bet Real Madrid are too. Los Merengues will once again take up the quest for La Decima—the 10th European champions crown—hoping they can end a 12-year wait in the Lisbon final on May 24 next year.
They have a tricky opening step on the road to negotiate in Istanbul this week, as anyone with any sort of medium-term memory will know. Galatasaray gave Jose Mourinho’s El Real an almighty shock in the quarter-final second leg at the Turk Telekom Arena back in April, before Cristiano Ronaldo’s stoppage-time goal put a definitive end to any lingering hopes the hosts had of completing an extraordinary comeback.
Having been brushed aside in Madrid, Fatih Terim’s team responded with pride, aggression and flair in the return. Their marquee signings from the January window, Didier Drogba and ex-Bernabeu midfielder Wesley Sniejder, were both on the scoresheet as Galatasaray rocked their visitors.
The Turkish champions face an uphill task to repeat last season’s exploits, with El Real and Juventus as qualification rivals. Still, Drogba and Sneijder are both in significantly better nick than they were back in spring. The two stars had been short of their sharpest when they arrived in Istanbul; Drogba after a spell in China and Sneijder compromised by months of inactivity as he attempted to find a way out of a contractual dispute with Inter.
Terim told me in an interview for The Blizzard, conducted in May, that he would ensure both were “more ready” for this campaign after going through one of his typically intensive preseason programmes. Sure enough, a vintage Drogba display helped beat Arsenal in the preseason Emirates Cup tournament. Sneijder has looked altogether more focussed than immediately after his arrival, too.
Yet the real cause for excitement might be something new. Galatasaray’s start to their title defence has been patchy, with Friday’s draw with Antalyaspor at the TT making it three stalemates in a row after an opening-day win over Gaziantepspor.
Galatasaray were trailing at half-time, but there was a twist. Bruma, the 18-year-old Portuguese winger who completed a protracted move from Sporting Clube de Portugal shortly before the transfer deadline, made his debut as a 62nd-minute substitute.
A blur of pace and energy, he dragged the game out of its torpor. Drogba equalised, but there was no doubting the name on everybody’s lips. Bruma could even have capped a dream debut with the winner, but he was denied in the closing minutes by a fine save from visiting goalkeeper Arikan.
Clearly the teenager was simply happy to be playing again after an unseemly contract dispute with Sporting filled his summer. Feeling overwhelmed by it all, Bruma went to stay with his older brother Mesca—who is on Fulham’s books—in London to escape the furor. Now, he can refocus with a coach willing to give him more game time than he could have expected at his other mooted destinations of Chelsea and Manchester City.
Terim says Bruma isn’t yet ready for 90 minutes, so he will start on the bench on Tuesday. Yet with many at home already feting him as the natural successor to fellow Sporting academy graduate Cristiano Ronaldo—given his speed, power and goalscoring ability, as displayed for Portugal in this summer’s Under-20 World Cup—it will be fascinating to see the apprentice face the master.
Carlo Ancelotti’s men are the favourites, but he knows a hot night lies ahead.
What is the duplicate article?
Why is this article offensive?
Where is this article plagiarized from?
Why is this article poorly edited?