Galatasaray are the surprise package of this year’s Champions League and travel to Real Madrid for the first leg of their quarter-final tie hoping to cause one of the biggest upsets in the history of the tournament. It is twelve years since the Turkish side last reached the quarter-finals but their arrival in the last eight this year has largely been due to some big signings in January.
The 100-1 outsiders added Champions League veterans Wesley Sneijder and Didier Drogba to their books in the new year and they have already proved their worth. Despite the fact that Real Madrid have enjoyed something of a resurgence after a slow start to the season, the Turks go to the Bernabéu full of confidence. Coach Fatih Terim has managed to blend his new signings into the team using an unorthodox 4-3-1-2 formation. It paid off handsomely with a battling 3-2 win at FC Schalke 04 in the last round and has been followed with domestic victories over Kayserispor and İstanbul BB SK.
José Mourinho is no stranger to many of the names on Galatasaray’s teamsheet, in particular Drogba who was Chelsea’s front man for many seasons and was instrumental in finally bringing Champions League glory to Stamford Bridge in 2012. Many thought that Drogba’s Champions League involvement had ended when he struck the winning penalty kick in last year’s final but he has been offered a new lease of life by the Turkish side and will be keen to make his presence felt on Wednesday night.
Drogba has an equally dangerous ally in Burak Yilmaz and the two have already caused havoc to opposition defences. What Drogba may now lack in pace, he makes up for with is intelligent play and physical presence. Burak is the Turkish Super League’s leading scorer with 18 goals this season and is also joint top scorer in the Champions League with eight. He has fired in 13 goals in his last 11 matches and Madrid will have to be extremely careful in defence.
It is generally accepted that it is better to have home advantage in the second leg and Galatasaray will be desperate to stay in touch with the Spanish giants on Wednesday. They have enjoyed successive away victories against Cluj, SC Braga and Schalke 04 but face a much stiffer challenge at the Bernabeau. Madrid have only been beaten once at home in Europe in sixteen matches under Mourinho and he has already signalled his intention to name his strongest side this week.
Xabi Alonso, Mesut Ozil and Angel Di Maria were all rested last weekend and both Raphael Varane and Fabio Coentrao are expected to return from recent injuries. Diego Lopez will start in goal because Iker Casillas is not fit to return from his hand injury. Real have suffered the disappointment of elimination at the semi-final stage for the past two seasons and look set to reach that stage of the competition yet again. In contrast to the Turkish side, Real Madrid are priced at only 5-2 to win the tournament and are 1-6 to win the 1st leg on Wednesday night. Galatasaray are 16-1 outsiders and the draw is 7-1.