Galatasaray seek place in Europe’s elite
Galatasaray is relying on the current form of Burak Yılmaz, who has scored all five of the Turkish titleholder’s goals in the Champions League. AA PhotoGalatasaray hopes to create another big European night when it visits Braga tonight, with a place in Europe’s elite top 16 at stake.
The Turkish titleholder will make it to the Champions League knockout stages with a win over Braga tonight. A draw or a defeat may even be enough depending on the result of the game between Manchester United and Cluj.
Manchester United, on 12 points, has already won Group H, while Galatasaray and Cluj, both on seven points, are vying for the runner-up spot. Braga, bottom of the group on three points, has no chance of finishing anywhere other than fourth.
Galatasaray betters the Romanian champion with a superior head-to-head record, so the Istanbul side will advance if it can match Cluj’s result in Manchester.
The Lions have reasons to be hopeful, with striker Burak Yılmaz on red hot form with five goals in the competition so far. They will also be relying on the fact that Manchester United rarely drops a point at home in the Champions League, even though the English giant is again likely to play with a second-string side, as it did during last month’s 1-0 defeat in Istanbul. Galatasaray club chief executive Lütfi Arıboğan said he was confident that the club would get the result it needs in Portugal.
“Since the day it was founded, Galatasaray aims for success not only in Turkey but also on the international platform,” Arıboğan said. “We will continue to give pride to Turkey. We will win the Braga game and will continue our path in the Champions League.” Galatasaray had a 1-1 draw Gaziantepspor, in another pre-Champions League match slump, as has happened a few times before this season. The Lions suffered a 2-0 defeat at Orduspor four days prior to their first meeting against Braga on Oct. 2, and lost 3-1 to Karabükspor before the 1-0 win over Manchester United on Nov. 20.
Galatasaray coach Fatih Terim has said he “prefers” dropping points in the Turkish top-flight.
“Nobody wants to lose and it is not nice to drop points, but I prefer losing points here [in the Turkish league] to the Champions League, because we can compensate our loss in Turkey,” Terim said after the 1-1 draw on Nov. 29. “Winning [the ticket to the knockout stages] will be an important boost to the club and the players, both in terms of economy and prestige.”
Galatasaray have made it past the group stages only once, during Mircea Lucescu’s helm in 2001.
Galatasaray’s most successful coach Terim has failed in his four previous attempts at the Champions League. However, he did lead the team to its European highlight - the UEFA Cup victory in 2000, after the team finished its Champions League group in third spot and continued in the second-tier European competition.
If Galatasaray makes it past the group, it will be the first Turkish team to achieve that feat since Fenerbahçe in 2007.