Troubled Galatasaray in tough Atletico test
Galatasaray's midfielder Selcuk Inan (L) vies with Benfica's Mexican forward Raul Jimenez during the UEFA Champions League football match between Galatasaray AS and SL Benfica at the Ali Sami Yen Spor Kompleks stadium in Istanbul on October 21, 2015. AFP PHOTO / BULENT KILICGalatasaray is going through turbulent times and now must play a win-or-die game on Nov. 24 when it travels to Spain for a Champions League Group C match against Atletico Madrid.
The Turkish champion sacked coach Hamza Hamzaoğlu last week and drew 3-3 at home to Antalyaspor on the weekend despite leading three times. Assistant coach Claduio Taffarel will again be in charge of the team against Atletico while Mustafa Denizli, who was named the new coach on Nov. 23 as he returns for a third spell - 23 years after his last stint in charge – is expected to take the helm before the weekend’s league game.
A loss against Atletico will end the Turkish club’s dreams of advancing to the last 16 stage.
Denizli is an experienced name who has coached Galatasaray, Beşiktaş, Fenerbahçe and the Turkish international team, as well as other top-flight clubs and Persepolis of Iran. He is the only coach to have won Turkish league titles with the “Three Big” Istanbul clubs.
“Galatasaray is the only club for which I will risk everything,” an emotional Denizli said on Nov. 23, speaking about the club he began his coaching career with.
Denizli took over as Galatasaray coach from Germany’s Jupp Derwall in the 1987-1988 season after working as his assistant for three years and led the club to the semifinals in the European Champions’ Cup.
“I’m excited,” said Denizli. “I started a different career here, and hopefully I will end it successfully here.”
Atletico needs only a draw against Galatasaray at the Vicente Calderon to secure their place in the last 16, although they may have to win to retain a chance of finishing on top of the section. Diego Simeone’s side, which will welcome back Juanfran for this match, are eight games unbeaten in all competitions and a Koke goal secured a 1-0 victory at Betis on Nov. 22 to leave them second in La Liga behind Barcelona.
In the group’s other game, Kazakh club Astana takes on Benfica at home.
Benfica has saved its best form for Europe this season and a fourth win in five outings will take the Portuguese giant through to the last 16.
A draw will also be enough if Galatasaray fails to win away to Atletico, but Rui Vitoria’s side has lost captain Luisao for two months with a broken arm and lost 2-1 after extra time to Lisbon rival Sporting in the Portuguese Cup at the weekend. Since it last played in the competition, Astana has retained the Kazakh title and lost to Kairat in the national cup final.
The club is still to win in the group stage but has already held Galatasaray and Atletico at home. However, the Kazakhs need to win this time to keep their hopes alive.