Galatasaray eyes victory away at Arsenal

Galatasaray eyes victory away at Arsenal

Galatasaray eyes victory away at Arsenal

Galatasaray players celebrate scoring against Anderlecht in the opening match of their Champions League campaign in Istanbul on Sept 16. The game ended in a 1-1 draw. AFP photo

Galatasaray has high hopes for victory against Premier League giant Arsenal tonight, as the Istanbul clubs travels to London’s Emirates Stadium for its Champions League Group D match.

Galatasaray has not won one game in nine visits to English clubs, but Italian coach Cesare Prandelli has insisted that his team, which was held to a 1-1 draw by Anderlecht in the campaign opener, has the potential to shock Arsenal.

“In this group there are strong teams, but we have a chance against Arsenal if we keep fighting,” said the former Italy national team coach, who stepped down after the Italians were ousted in the group stage at the World Cup in June.

“We must be mentally ready and aggressive,” he added. “We represent Turkey and Galatasaray, and we know that our fans are on our side wherever we play. We should always, in every stadium, play our own game and leave [the] pitch [with] our heads held up high.”

Galatasaray’s Dutch star Wesley Sneijder dismissed rumors about troubles between players, noting that weekend’s league victory against Sivasspor boosted the team’s morale. “We will be in good spirits against Arsenal,” he said. “We will believe in ourselves and overcome this tough obstacle.”

Although Galatasaray is no stranger to Premier League clubs, tonight’s game will be only the second meeting between Arsenal and Galatasaray. The teams’ previous meeting came in the 2000 UEFA Cup final in Copenhagen, when Galatasaray won 4-1 on penalties after a goalless game to achieve the biggest success of the club history.

As Galatasaray dreams of repeating that success in London, Arsene Wenger has challenged Arsenal to kick-start its spluttering campaign with a victory.

Wenger’s side has frustrated the manager with a series of flawed displays during a run of only one win in its last six matches in all competitions, and the Gunners are desperate to stop the rot when Galatasaray visits. Instead of moving forward since qualifying for the Champions League group stage with a 1-0 victory over Turkish side Beşiktaş in late August, the Gunners have become stuck in a rut.

The disappointing sequence includes a comprehensive dismantling in a 2-0 loss against Borussia Dortmund–a score that flattered the lackluster Gunners–in their Champions League Group D opener.

The latest misstep came against north London rival Tottenham on Sept. 27, when Arsenal failed to turn its territorial dominance into goals and had to rely on a late equalizer from Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain to salvage a 1-1 draw. To make matters worse, Wenger’s midfield was decimated by injuries at the weekend, with Wales dynamo Aaron Ramsey, captain Mikel Arteta and England international Jack Wilshere all limping off the field.

Ramsey and Arteta will miss tonight’s game, while Wenger hopes Wilshere can recover from his ankle injury in time to play.

Despite the injuries, Wenger knows a win over Galatasaray is essential if Arsenal wants to avoid putting the club in an awkward position in its battle to qualify for the knockout stages of Europe’s elite club competition. “The positive is that we are unbeaten [in the Premier League], but the negative is that we have missed four points from the quality of the games we have played,” Wenger said.

“Somewhere we have to keep that unbeaten record, and I think at some stage we will win the games instead of drawing. It is the second important block [of matches] now. The first massively important game for us was Besiktas after the World Cup, to get through and to start well in the Premier League.

Our start was decent, and now is the second block of games that will show how strong and good we are,” he added. Arsenal defender Per Mertesacker, who is likely to captain the team in the absence of Arteta, sees no reason to panic at this relatively early stage of the season.

And the German center-back is confident the strong sense of unity among Arsenal’s squad will lead them out of their current rough patch. “We know that we have good team spirit in the dressing room, so we have to show it on the pitch,” Mertesacker said. “Against Tottenham we showed it in a good way, but we can do better.”