Who: Chelsea FC vs. Galatasaray SK
What: UEFA Champions League, Round of 16 (Leg 2)
Where: Stamford Bridge, West London, England, United Kingdom
When: Tuesday, March 18, 2014
Weather: The Weather Channel forecast Stamford Bridge
Time: 19:45 GMT/3:45 p.m. ET/12:45 p.m. PT
Worldwide Livestreams and TV Channels: LiveSoccerTV.com
TV: Fox Sports 1, Fox Soccer 2Go (US); UTV, ITV 1, STV Scotland (UK)
Radio: SiriusXM FC Sirius 94 (Internet 94), BBC Radio 5 Live
3-Way Odds: Chelsea -275, Galatasaray +800, Draw +380
Total: Over 2½ -140, Under 2½ +110
Decimal Odds: Chelsea 1.36, Galatasaray 9.00, Draw 4.80
Decimal Total: Over 2½ 1.71, Under 2½ 2.10
Fractional Odds: Chelsea 4/11, Galatasaray 8/1, Draw 19/5
Fractional Total: Over 2½ 5/7, Under 2½ 11/10
First Half: Chelsea -½ -120, Galatasaray +½ -110
Chelsea -120, Galatasaray +650, Tied +140
Alternate Odds: Chelsea -½ -225, Galatasaray +½ +220
Over 1½ -425, Under 1½ +325
Over 3½ +190, Under 3½ -230
Odds To Advance: Chelsea -600, Galatasaray +375
Odds To Win Champions League: Chelsea 12/1, Galatasaray 250/1 (Lowest)
Source: Bovada (Kahnawake, Canada)
3-Way Odds: Chelsea -275, Galatasaray +775, Draw +390
Total: Over 2½ -120, Under 2½ +110
Source: LVH SuperBook (Las Vegas, Nevada USA)
Little did Chelsea know that when talisman Didier Drogba ultimately made his valiant return to Stamford Bridge, it would end up being as an opponent in the game of the year for his former club in the tournament of all tournaments.
Such is the case Tuesday when the 35-year-old Ivorian and Galatasaray are in West London to try to take care of some serious business against the Blues in the second leg of the UEFA Champions League Round of 16 series which saw the two teams draw 1-1 in Istanbul a fortnight back.
A precious berth in the quarterfinals is at stake here, and although Chelsea is incredibly strong at home in the friendly confines of Stamford Bridge and the oddsmakers have made the Blues a prohibitive favorite (-275), the Cimbom haven’t lost a game since Thanksgiving weekend (Nov. 27, at Real Madrid) and Drogba and his strike force should really, really worry the hosts.
Galatasaray has only won four of 19 road matches this season so the former Chelsea legend—who had the game-tying and game-winning goals against Bayern Munich in the historic 2012 Champions League final—and teammates Wesley Sneijder, Felipe Melo and Selcuk Inan really need to try to score first here to get that precious road goal, send some fear down the royal-blue spine of the Europa League champs and silence the home crowd.
But scoring on English soil against the English Premier League’s best defense (23 goals allowed) and one of Europe’s top goalkeepers (Petr Cech) should prove to be pretty darn tough for defending Turkish Super Lig champions Galatasaray (13-10-2) with Blues defenders John Terry, Gary Cahill, Cesar Azpilicueta and Branislav Ivanovic willing to throw their bodies at the ball in front of goal like Secret Service agents defending the president.
The Cimbom—who still sit in second place behind Fenerbahce and haven’t lost a league game since Nov. 10—have really come together quite nicely for first-year manager Roberto Mancini and with goalkeeper Fernando Muslera, should be able to stifle a scuffling Chelsea squad, which, despite losing for the first time in all competitions on Saturday, still has trouble scoring in the first half and still has to rely on Samuel Eto’o, Fernando Torres and Demba Ba as striker options.
For the throngs at the Bridge, watching Drogba do his Drogba thing in red and yellow will be really strange at first but probably about 20 minutes in, the Chelsea crowd will realize this is a do-or-die situation and after the weekend’s main feature, Fiasco at Villa Park—directed by Chris Foy—any more letdown would certainly drive many to possible hobbies like knitting or coin collecting.
So the Blues are really under pressure here in this one and will need the home advantage, all the breaks and bounces and manager Jose Mourinho to be at his very best putting out a dynamic starting XI with what he has to work with on his talented but still somewhat new roster and using his substitutes properly against Galatasaray in the team’s expected and usual 4-2-3-1 formation.
January signees Nemanja Matic (Benfica) and Mohamed Salah (FC Basel) won’t be available to play in this one for now extremely skittish league leaders Chelsea (20-6-4), with Matic’s unavailability being a real issue for me in a game of this magnitude. Salah has been virtually invisible so far since joining the Blues.
Midfielders Eden Hazard, Oscar, Andre Schurrle, Willian and Frank Lampard will all have to be at their very best and if form holds, The Special One will give both Torres and Eto’o minutes and Chelsea will need a much better game from the 29-year-old Spaniard against the Cimbom than it received from him Saturday at Villa Park.
Torres does have a much stronger track record in international play but it would surprise no one to see either him or Eto’o get the start in this second leg.
For the Blues, both John Obi Mikel and Ramires are a booking away from suspension while for Galatasaray—which faces Bursaspor in the upcoming Turkish Cup semifinals—Melo and Muslera are in the same boat and also need to be careful if and when on the pitch. Chelsea defenders David Luiz (groin) and Ashley Cole (knee) have been sitting with injuries lately, but he could be needed in a game of this magnitude.
With fear providing a little extra nervous energy and the SW6 crowd adding some of its own, the Blues should find a way to score first here, for them hopefully in the first 45 minutes. Lampard seems like one of the usual suspects to come through here. Alternatively, it would surprise no one if captain Terry or flying bulldog Ivanovic also found a way to somehow come through in the clutch.
Besides the building, history is also on the side of the 2012 Champions League winners as Chelsea is an unbeaten 6-1-0 in its last seven European knockout matches and there is no way the officiating could be one-tenth as bad as it was against the Claret and Blue now could it? Perish the thought celery breath.
Although the below prediction appears bold in its numerical reality, this is simply a stupid guess and taking a shot at Drogba and the visitors at a bloated +800 actually seems wiser from a wagering standpoint, as does maybe taking the Draw (+380) after 90 minutes.
But with so much on the line, the best bet here is to just sit back and watch as the movie-like saga of the old gunslinger Drogba returning home unwinds with the homefolk being absolutely scared out of their British wits of their beloved boy. After all, hanging on in quiet desperation is the English way, right Pink?
No doubt Chelsea and its fans will all be hoping its actually the Turks and Galatasaray who are the ones “hanging on in quiet desperation” on Tuesday but one thing’s for certain in this extremely high-profile showdown: Whoever gets scored on first in this particular situation (1-1 aggregate) will be the ones dealing with that despair.
It would also probably be wise to prepare yourself for the possibility of extra time or even a penalty shootout as anyone following this schizophrenic Blues side over the last three seasons knows how hard this team can make it at times. And we have the psychiatrist’s bills to prove it.
PREDICTION: Chelsea 2 Galatasaray 0
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