Skip to content

UEFA Champions League Preview: Galatasaray tasked with bringing down Chelsea’s fortress

Mar 17, 2014, 6:00 PM EDT

Eden Hazard AP

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.

(REVIEW: Chelsea fails to kill off Galatasaray as home side earns a 1-1 draw)

“[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.

(MORE,  UEFA Champions League Preview: Youth on display for Real Madrid, up five against Schalke)

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.”

Latest Posts
  1. FA investigating racial abuse in Championship match

    Oct 22, 2014, 8:42 AM EDT

    BellusciJerome Getty Images

    Norwich striker Cameron Jerome complained to Mark Clattenburg that a Leeds player was racially abusing him, and the matter is being investigated.

  2. Podolski to speak to Wenger, Arsenal about his future

    Oct 22, 2014, 7:46 AM EDT

    Podolski Getty Images

    Arsenal’s energetic German winger loves the club, but admitted he can’t sit on the bench forever.

  3. QPR chairman releases statement on Redknapp-Taarabt feud

    Oct 21, 2014, 11:10 PM EDT

    Tony Fernandes looks on at Loftus Road during a QPR match this season. Getty Images

    “On behalf of the club, I would like to apologise to the QPR supporters for the embarrassment this has caused,” Fernandes wrote.

  4. Tuesday’s Top 5 Champions League Goals: Which was the best?

    Oct 21, 2014, 10:15 PM EDT

    Edinson Cavani AP

    Who scored the best goal in Tuesday’s Champions League action?

  5. A Klinsmann Casualty? Juan Agudelo passed on by Wolverhampton

    Oct 21, 2014, 8:15 PM EDT

    Dutch Eredivisie - Roda JC Kerkrade v FC Utrecht AP

    One hopes Agudelo’s story will resonate with Jurgen Klinsmann.

  6. Steven Gerrard admits he denied move to Real Madrid and that it may haunt him in the future

    Oct 21, 2014, 7:15 PM EDT

    Switzerland Soccer Champions League AP

    “It might be something I regret down the line for not challenging myself,” said Gerrard.

  7. Sunderland players offer traveling fans refund for 8-0 romp at Southampton

    Oct 21, 2014, 5:50 PM EDT

    Jack Cork, Vito Mannone

    The players will shell out over $90,000 to cover the cost of the traveling fans.

  8. UEFA Champions League roundup: Bayern, Chelsea, Shakhtar go crazy on 40-goal night

    Oct 21, 2014, 5:10 PM EDT

    AS Roma v FC Bayern Muenchen - UEFA Champions League Getty Images

    40 goals were scored in eight games on Tuesday, as Groups E-H exploded into life.

  9. Chelsea 6-0 Maribor: Hazard brace keeps Blues atop Group G

    Oct 21, 2014, 5:01 PM EDT

    Britain Soccer Champions League

    A sensational ending to a sensational performance by Hazard and Chelsea as a whole.

  10. AS Roma 1-7 Bayern Munich: Sublime Bayern smash Roma to go five points clear in Group E

    Oct 21, 2014, 4:35 PM EDT

    Italy Soccer Champions League AP

    When Bayern Munich are firing on all cylinders, they are scary, scary sight.

  11. FOLLOW LIVE: At the half, Chelsea leading Maribor 3-0

    Oct 21, 2014, 3:49 PM EDT

    Britain Soccer Premier League AP

    Unlucky for Maribor. Comfortable for Chelsea.

  12. LIVE – Champions League half time update: Blowouts! Get your blowouts here!

    Oct 21, 2014, 3:42 PM EDT

    FBL-EUR-C1-SHAKHTAR-PORTO Getty Images

    Groups E-H are in action on Wednesday in Europe as eight games take place, and there are some gaudy score lines after just 45 minutes.

  13. FOLLOW LIVE: At the half, unstoppable Bayern Munich up 5-0 at Roma

    Oct 21, 2014, 3:36 PM EDT

    arjen_robben AP

    It’s an absolute shellacking going into half-time with Bayern giving a masterclass display in Roma.

  14. Philadelphia Union CEO heavily implies they have their long-term manager in Curtin

    Oct 21, 2014, 3:00 PM EDT

    Jim Curtin AP

    It’s the right move for Philly, especially given the man management shown by Curtin.

  15. Manuel Pellegrini upbeat, but Manchester City’s Champions League dreams fading

    Oct 21, 2014, 2:48 PM EDT

    Pellegrini defiant despite City blowing a 2-0 lead in Moscow.

  16. 22-year-old set to start for Arsenal as injury woes hit goalkeepers

    Oct 21, 2014, 2:07 PM EDT

    Arsenal Training Session Getty Images

    Missing Koscielny is a far bigger blow than having to start a 22-year-old, though.

  17. CSKA Moscow 2-2 Manchester City: Citizens blow 2-0 lead, Champions League hopes in ruin

    Oct 21, 2014, 2:01 PM EDT

    AP

    City chuck away 2-0 lead in Russian capital, as UCL hopes hang in the balance.

  18. PST’s Major League Soccer power rankings: Did Seattle, DC leapfrog LA?

    Oct 21, 2014, 1:21 PM EDT

    Aaron Schoenfeld, Justin Meram, Tyson Wahl AP

    We’re going to have to have a talk about the presupposed power of the superior West at some point soon.

  19. FOLLOW LIVE – At the half, Manchester City running riot in Russia

    Oct 21, 2014, 12:58 PM EDT

    FBL-EUR-C1-CSKA MOSCOW-MAN CITY FBL-EUR-C1-CSKA MOSCOW-MAN CITY

    City storming towards their first UCL win of the season in snowy Moscow.

Featured video

Week 8: Saturday PL recap