Galatasaray faces tough Barcelona test in Europa League
Galatasaray travels to Camp Nou on March 10 to play Barcelona in a Europa League last 16th match amid efforts to put its season back on track.
Having won only twice in its last 15 matches, the Istanbul club is not very happy to be playing against the Spanish giant.
“There was not a team that I had wanted to be drawn against, but we can say that it [Barcelona] is the worst [for us] among possible rivals,” Galatasaray coach Domenec Torrent said following a 2-0 loss at Konyaspor in a Süper Lig match on March 5.
Torrent is no stranger to Barcelona, having worked at the Catalan club as an assistant to Pep Guardiola.
“Barcelona is currently one of the most in-form teams in Europe and the world,” he said.
“Its coach clearly knows how the team should play. During the winter transfer period, it had the chance to transfer major players. We are aware of the quality they possess both in defense and offense.”
Five-time European champion Barcelona is still adjusting to the unfamiliar surroundings of the continent’s secondary competition after crashing out of the Champions League in the group stage for the first time in 18 years.
It hosts Galatasaray at Camp Nou on the back of its best run of the season after four victories in a row, including an impressive 4-2 win away at Napoli in the previous round.
The Catalans sit third in La Liga and have not lost in the league since December, boosted by a busy January transfer window in which they signed Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang from Arsenal as well as Ferran Torres and Adama Traore.
Aubameyang and Torres have scored seven goals between them in Barça’s last five games.
“We have four wins in a row, and this hasn’t happened for a long time,” said coach Xavi Hernandez on March 6 following a 2-1 La Liga win at Elche.
“The players believe in what we are doing. We are on the right path,” he added.
The Europa League is still Barcelona’s only realistic hope of winning a trophy this season, and there remains a defensive fragility that will encourage opponents.
Aso in the Europa League, Sevilla, which has won the Europa League four times in the last eight seasons, will face a West Ham side that is battling for a trophy.
The shadow of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine will hang over March 10’s matches, with the tie between Spartak Moscow and RB Leipzig canceled, though the Football Union of Russia lodged an appeal at the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) on March 8 seeking to overturn UEFA’s ban on its club playing in European competition.