Galatasaray seeks win for prestige on European stage

Galatasaray seeks win for prestige on European stage

Galatasaray seeks win for prestige on European stage

Galatasaray players celebrate a goal against Akhisar Belediye in the Spor Toto Super League. The Istanbul club won the home game on Dec 6 2-1. HÜRRİYET photo

Galatasaray has already lost any chances of continuing its European campaign this season, but the Istanbul club will try to bow out with a victory when it hosts Arsenal tonight for a Champions League Group D game.

The Lions parted ways with Italian coach Cesare Prandelli after a loss at Anderlecht two weeks ago, which cemented their place at the bottom of their group with only one point.

Former Galatasaray and Turkish international midfielder Hamza Hamzaoğlu, who was an assistant to coach Fatih Terim at Turkey’s national team, replaced Prandelli for the season. Galatarsay has won both of its two games since, one in the Ziraat Turkish Cup and another in the Spor Toto Süper League, and coach Hamzaoğlu hopes for a similar result against the Gunners.

“The game will be important for us for prestige and to boost our morale and self-confidence,” Hamzaoğlu said Dec. 6 after a 2-1 victory against Akhisar Belediye in the league. “I hope to see my players come together and play well on the pitch. We will be much happier if we win, but what is more important than winning is to be able to come out as a team.”

While Galatasaray wants a victory for prestige, Arsenal, which has already qualified for the knockout stages of Europe’s elite club competition, would prefer to finish the group stage in first place to avoid a potentially tricky last 16 clash.

For that, Arsenal will need a victory in Istanbul and hope that Borussia Dortmund will falter at home against Anderlecht.

But even more important for the visiting side, coach Arsene Wenger desperately needs some good news after a chastening trip to Stoke on Dec. 6 ended with the Gunners boss looking like a beleaguered figure as he was abused by angry Arsenal fans while waiting to board the club’s train home after their dismal 3-2 defeat.

Despite the rumors that some players could be rested against Galatasaray amid a busy schedule for the Londoners, Wenger said he plans to field most of his key players.

“We’ll go with a strong team, of course, we want to win the game,” Wenger said.

“Since the start of this season we have played seven games in the Champions League, including the qualifiers and we have won four. I would like to win five.

“Galatasaray cannot even get to the Europa League. It’s a massive surprise because I thought they would be one of the contenders to go through.”

Wenger is aware that Galatasaray will be out for a victory.

“Turkish people are very proud and they will try to finish well this campaign with a convincing performance, but we have played many games and some players are close to getting an injury, so I’ll have to assess that,” he said.

Also tonight, Liverpool will look to Steven Gerrard for inspiration when it faces Basel in a must-win match, 10 years after a similar case.

On Dec. 8, 2004, Liverpool welcomed Greek side Olympiakos to Anfield needing to win by two goals to reach the last 16.

The home side was leading 2-1 with four minutes remaining when the ball fell to Gerrard on the edge of the penalty area and he bludgeoned a ferocious shot past Antonis Nikopolidis to send the Kop into a state of delirium.

Gerrard, then 24, ended the season by hoisting the European Cup into the Istanbul night beneath a shower of red tickertape after a famous comeback against AC Milan in the final.

Given Liverpool’s poor recent form, the chances of a similar conclusion to the current campaign appear remote, but that 2004 encounter with Olympiakos provides a positive omen.

Gerrard had spent the previous close season mulling over an offer from Mourinho to join him at Stamford Bridge, but if the sporting context surrounding Basel’s visit is familiar, Gerrard’s personal circumstances are now very different.

He has yet to accept the offer of a new, short-term contract from Liverpool and has found himself moved in and out of Brendan Rodgers’s starting line-up amid concerns about his waning powers of endurance.