Troubled Galatasaray now faces ‘Real’ deal in Europe

Troubled Galatasaray now faces ‘Real’ deal in Europe

Troubled Galatasaray now faces ‘Real’ deal in Europe

Didier Drogba (R) dummies Raphael Varane to score a memorable goal with his heel to give Galatasaray a 3-1 lead over Real Madrid in this file photo from April 9.

Troubled Galatasaray opens its Champions League campaign with a key fixture against Real Madrid tonight. The Lions are hosting the most expensive lineup in football history, and the meeting does not come at the best time for the Turkish titleholder. 

Galatasaray has failed to win its last three games in the Spor Toto Super League, and on Sept. 13 it only just escaped with a 1-1 draw against Medical Park Antalyaspor. 

Coach Fatih Terim admitted it had not been the best possible build-up to the game, but said his team wanted to win “to show that Galatasaray could match any European team, no matter how hard it is.” 

The 60-year-old coach, who has been working overtime since taking over the Turkish national football team last month, admits that Galatasaray have a mountain to climb in a group that also holds Italian champion Juventus and Denmark’s Copenhagen. 

Terim admits Real likely to lead the group 

“We are playing in group where Real Madrid is the favorite,” Terim said during the pre-game press conference yesterday. “So, instead of looking too far ahead, we need to take every match as it comes.” 

The two teams last met in the Champions League quarterfinals last year, with Real prevailing 5-3 on aggregate. However, after losing 3-0 in Madrid, Galatasaray made a memorable fight-back, winning the second leg 3-2. “We made a great finish then, even though we were knocked out,” Terim said. “[This] game will be important, but even with a defeat our chances will continue. That’s the difference.” 

With Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale set to play, Real Madrid traveled to Istanbul with the most expensive attacking lineup in football history. 

Ronaldo renewed his contract with Madrid on Sept. 15, and he has now set his mind on winning another European Cup.

“I don’t have doubts that sooner or later the 10th European Cup will arrive and I am convinced that it will be this year,” Ronaldo was quoted by the Associated Press as saying. 

However, Madrid will be without midfielder Xabi Alonso, who is sidelined with a broken foot. The 31-year-old Spaniard’s absence was noticeable against Villarreal over the weekend as Madrid dropped points and is now fourth in the league behind Atletico Madrid, Barcelona and Villarreal.

Casillas returns

Although Diego Lopez did well in the 2-2 draw on Sept. 14, Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti has said Iker Casillas will be in goal against Galatasaray.

The Turkish team boasts a good home record, losing only two of its last 14 home European matches, but Ronaldo is also in good form with 21 goals in his previous 19 Champions League outings.

Now that Ancelotti has sold Mesut Özil to Arsenal, the German player’s pinpoint passes look likely to be replaced by explosive attacking runs and fierce crosses into the box.

Bale scored in his debut with Madrid against Villarreal, knocking a cross into the net. “Proud to score on my debut,” Bale said in a tweet after the match, adding “just disappointed not to get the result.

Looking forward to Tuesday now.” Real Madrid has lost in the semifinals of the lucrative competition in
the last three seasons, last season to Borussia Dortmund.

“Real Madrid has not made it into the final of the Champions League since 2002 and that’s amazing when you think about it,” Ancelotti said. “I think it’s been too long for a club of Madrid’s stature.”

In the other group match, FC Copenhagen will host Juventus.