Galatasaray set for tough test against PSG
Galatasaray kicked off its group campaign last season with a 3-0 home success against Lokomotiv Moscow, but picked up only one more point in its next five games to finish third behind Porto and Schalke. It then lost to Benfica in the Europa League round of 32.
While the Turkish champion was held at Club Brugge in its opening game this year, PSG turned on the style with an impressive dismantling of Real Madrid to take the initiative in the group.
The club’s Süper Lig title defense started shaky, and following the weekend’s goalless home draw in an Istanbul derby against Fenerbahçe, Galatasaray sits in the sixth spot with just two wins in six matches.
Despite its not-so-brilliant recent performances on the European stage, Galatasaray is unbeaten in its last six home matches against French clubs, winning four of them, and has lost only once against Ligue 1 visitors in Istanbul: 2-0 reverse against Monaco in the Champions League group stage back in 1993. And the Parisian side has lost three of its four games in Turkey, only beating Kayserispor 2-1 in the UEFA Cup in 2008.
In Group A’s other game, Real Madrid will play at home against Club Brugge.
At the end of last season, as Zinedine Zidane’s dreary run-in came to a close and paved the way for what many expected to be a spectacular summer, polls were published by Madrid’s newspapers asking fans which of the world’s deadliest strikers they hoped would arrive at the Santiago Bernabeu.
Harry Kane, Mohamed Salah, Sergio Aguero, Mauro Icardi and Robert Lewandowski were some of the names offered up and, in the end, Luka Jovic arrived, the Serbian who has struggled for starts so far and is yet to score a goal.
Eden Hazard is tasked too with helping fill the void left by Cristiano Ronaldo, even if the Belgian’s own opening in Madrid has also been underwhelming, stalled by injury and now seemingly a period of adjustment.
“We would like him to score because it will release him,” said Zidane on Sept. 28.”But there is no problem with him.”
Yet the stalemate against Atletico Madrid, in which neither side ever looked likely to find a winner, was a stark indication of how Real Madrid have relied on its defense to ease the pressure on its coach.
“We have been compact and again we have not conceded,” said Zidane after the derby draw. “We have missed a little offensively but we are in it and we can improve.”
This is the first time Madrid has kept three consecutive clean sheets in the league under Zidane and in the games against Sevilla, Osasuna and Atletico, the club has had to cope with just a single shot on target.
“Defending is very important, it is the fundamentals,” Zidane said.
Elsewhere in the Champions League, Bayern Munich captain Manuel Neuer heads into the clash with Tottenham Hotspur aiming for a display that settles the debate about whether he should remain Germany’s first-choice goalkeeper ahead of Barcelona’s Marc-Andre ter Stegen.
The showdown in London will be key in deciding who will win Group B, with Bayern currently top after beating Red Star Belgrade 3-0 in its opener a fortnight ago and Spurs needing a home victory to get back on track after throwing away a two-goal lead in a 2-2 draw at Olympiakos.
Neuer will want to use the high-profile clash to prove his form after a shaky display over the weekend, in which he was twice beaten, including once from long-range effort, at bottom club Paderborn.
That display came on the same day Ter Stegen launched Barça to a 2-0 win at Getafe with a sensational long-range pass for Luis Suarez’s opener after snuffing out an attack from the home side.
Ter Stegen had sparked a war of words between Germany’s top goalkeepers when he said it was a “tough blow” to remain on the bench after watching Neuer beaten four times in a heavy home defeat by the Netherlands in this month’s Euro 2020 qualifier.
The Barça keeper had been promised more games in 2019 by national coach Joachim Löw, but he has so far only had a 45-minute cameo against Serbia in March, and Neuer telling the 27-year-old his comments were unhelfpful to team spirit only led to a terse reply of “Manu doesn’t need to comment on my feelings.”
While Löw has refused to be drawn on the row, Bayern’s out-spoken president Uli Hoeness waded in by insisting the Bundesliga champion would refuse to let its stars play for Germany should Neuer be dropped, before eventually rolling back from the threat.