Mar 17, 2014, 6:00 PM EST
Take three factoids, stare at them long enough, and you can talk yourself into a Galatasaray win on Tuesday. That very well might happen, but if it does, it won’t be because Aston Villa upset Chelsea on Saturday. It won’t be because the Blues were pulled back in Istanbul three weeks ago, nor will be because of the 12-match unbeaten run Gala brings into the team’s second leg. If Chelsea are bounced out of UEFA Champions League in the Round of 16, it will be because they gave an unexpectedly poor performance.
Which, of course, occasionally happens in soccer, and with Roberto Mancini’s team possessing talents like former Blue Didier Drogba and fellow Champions League-winner Wesley Sniejder, the Turkish champions are capable of taking advantage of any Chelsea mistakes. But under José Mourinho, mistakes at Stamford Bridge have almost been non-existent. Now in his second stint at the club, Mourinho has still yet to lose a game at home in the Premier League, and while that record didn’t prevent Switzerland’s FC Basel from claiming three points at the Bridge in group stage, it does speak to the rare feat Galatasaray hopes to accomplish on Tuesday.
“[W]e are here and we know it will be really difficult because Chelsea are one of the best teams in Europe,” Gala head coach Roberto Mancini said on Monday. “But in football you never say never. Anything can happen if you believe in yourself.”
That belief will have to find a way through the best defense in England. Chelsea is allowing only 10.3 shots per game, a rate that’s led to only 23 goals allowed through 30 rounds. The back four of Branislav Ivanovic, Gary Cahill, John Terry, and César Azpilicueta has become England’s best, one that’s maintained its numbers in a league where multiple clubs can match the firepower of Drogba, Sneijder, and Burak Yilmaz. If they can continue to make goalkeeper Petr Cech‘s job an easy one, Chelsea’s away goal will take them into the quarterfinals.
That scenario assumes Mourinho’s team can be kept off the scoresheet, something Gala’s unlikely to do. Saturday’s match in Birmingham represented the first time Chelsea had been shutout in five games – only the third time they’ve been blanked in 17. In the four games leading up to their visit to Villa Park, Chelsea had scored nine times. Only one team (West Ham) has kept Chelsea of the scoresheet at Stamford Bridge since Mourinho’s return.
Though they held Chelsea to one goal in the first leg, it’s unclear how Galatasaray can stop Eden Hazard if the Belgian is at his best. Combed with Willian and either Oscar or Andre Schürrle, the Blues attacker are poised to tempt the card-prone Felipe Melo in Gala’s defensive midfield. With Fernando Muslera alternating the spectacular with the inexplicable in goal, Galatasaray are unlikely to keep a clean sheet in London.
All of which is a long way to say the obvious: Chelsea are favorites on Tuesday. You really didn’t need 445 words to detail why. They are one of the most well-funded, talented teams in the world. The broad, reductive strokes we usually see describe a match between England and Turkey’s best happen to be accurate in this case. At home against one of Turkey’s best, Chelsea should be able to preserve the slight advantage they took out of Istanbul.
That the advantage is only slight — that Chelsea has left itself within reach of luck, misfortune, mistake, or variance — gives the Turkish champions reason to hope.
“If you look at the (first leg’s) result – 1-1 – and if you look at the game, one team was better in the first half, another was better in the second,” Mourinho explained. “It’s the kind of match that could go to the wire. I very much doubt the game will be decided by half-time.”
Feb 26, 2015, 7:27 PM EST
It’s a who’s-who of USMNT, USWNT and MLS stars who are now eligible for the U.S. Soccer HOF.
Feb 26, 2015, 6:51 PM EST
A 550-pound British bomb was found near Dortmund’s stadium on Thursday. That’s a little bit crazy.
Feb 26, 2015, 6:13 PM EST
Five years, $300 million — the going rate for prime real estate on a top PL team’s jersey.
Feb 26, 2015, 5:05 PM EST
The Premier League’s nightmare week in European competition continued on Thursday.
Feb 26, 2015, 3:44 PM EST
It took kicks to settle the UEFA Europa League tie between Besiktas and Liverpool after both clubs won 1-0 home legs.
Feb 26, 2015, 2:59 PM EST
The shots may’ve been even, but Spurs had 2/3 possession for much of the night.
Feb 26, 2015, 2:36 PM EST
Cummings’ manager is backing him up, too, and the Scotland U-19 forward has 11 goals in 23 matches for Hibs this season.
Feb 26, 2015, 1:46 PM EST
If you believe the words from Real Salt Lake owner Dell Loy Hansen on local radio last night, you probably want to prepare for a work stoppage in MLS.
Feb 26, 2015, 12:42 PM EST
It had to be a terrifying incident for the team, let alone the player.
Feb 26, 2015, 11:50 AM EST
Kickoff is at 8pm ET, with the return leg in DC on Wednesday.
Feb 26, 2015, 11:05 AM EST
Koeman, like many of us, thinks it’s a little wild to keep talking about 2022 in 2015.
Feb 26, 2015, 10:16 AM EST
Gone for now is the trademark ponytail due to the cancer battle, but Jonas’ spirit has been and will be a big boost for the Magpies.
Feb 26, 2015, 9:25 AM EST
Dunkin’ Donuts has issued an apology after their doctoring of the Liverpool logo offended some fans.
Feb 26, 2015, 8:39 AM EST
Scholes, 40, would be a high-profile move for the Latics, and Oldham says it won’t rush to hire a replacement.
Feb 26, 2015, 7:48 AM EST
He was without a team for a while, exploring other European clubs before deciding to return to New England.
Feb 25, 2015, 11:00 PM EST
The midfielder takes a quick dribble and lashes a left-footed shot that pings off the inside of the net and rockets around the back.
Feb 25, 2015, 10:11 PM EST
The lanky 24-year-old goalkeeper has a contract that runs through the 2016 season and has been a massive part of United’s rise up the table.
Feb 25, 2015, 9:20 PM EST
Rodgers asks a seemingly reasonable question: Why two days turnaround to face a City team that played on Tuesday?
Feb 25, 2015, 8:31 PM EST
Premier League teams’ Europa League fortunes range from comfortable to troubled with Everton, Spurs and Liverpool mixing it up on Thursday.
Feb 25, 2015, 7:26 PM EST
While Monaco went into the Emirates Stadium and punished hosts Arsenal, Bayer Leverkusen eeked out a victory against stingy Atletico Madrid.
- Keller, Hejduk, Conrad headline 13 new eligibles for National Soccer HOF 0
- Europa League roundup: Tottenham, Liverpool out; Everton, La Liga sides advance 0
- Besiktas 1-0 (1-1) Liverpool: Arslan makes, Lovren misses final PK as Reds go out of Europe 6
- Fiorentina ousts Tottenham from the Europa League with 2-0 win at the Stadio Artemio Franchi 1
- Strike season? Real Salt Lake owner calls free agency “go nowhere conversation” 5
- Liverpool’s Rodgers disturbed at Premier League scheduling around Europa League 5