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. MLS Snapshot: Columbus Crew 2-2 Chicago Fire

    May 22, 2015, 10:31 PM EDT

    Toronto FC v Chicago Fire Getty Images

    Final: Columbus Crew 2-2 Chicago Fire

  2. Paris Saint-Germain submit $137,662,500 bid for Cristiano Ronaldo

    May 22, 2015, 9:52 PM EDT

    Cristiano Ronaldo AP

    PSG is willing to dish out the cash to bring Ronaldo to France. The problem? He would have to leave his built-up glory at Madrid behind him.

  3. PST Extra: High stakes for Hull City, Newcastle as relegation looms

    May 22, 2015, 9:00 PM EDT

    Hull City v Burnley - Premier League Getty Images

    PST’s Joe-Prince Wright discussed the final relegation battle between Hull City and Newcastle United.

  4. Roberto Mancini hoping for Inter revival through transfers: “It won’t be easy”

    May 22, 2015, 8:08 PM EDT

    Parma FC v AS Roma - Serie A Getty Images

    Mancini: “If we find players with the right characteristics, we’ll be able to improve the existing players in our squad as well. It won’t be easy….”

  5. Hervé Renard quits as Ivory Coast manager, expected to join French side Lille

    May 22, 2015, 7:00 PM EDT

    herve-renard_1t6shrsqreusp1jyiv4zvva8cz Getty Images

    Ivory Coast manager Hervé Renard is leaving on good terms and with a new challenge ahead of him at Lille.

  6. 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup: Mexico names Chicharito, Carlos Vela, others on roster

    May 22, 2015, 6:14 PM EDT

    Chicharito Getty Images

    Mexico will have a roster full of their talent from Europe for the 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup.

  7. Despite calling himself the “godfather” of women’s soccer, Sepp Blatter didn’t recognize Alex Morgan

    May 22, 2015, 5:15 PM EDT

    FIFA President Sepp Blatter addresses the media in Zurich Reuters

    FIFA president Blatter called himself the “godfather” of women’s soccer earlier this month, yet he couldn’t recognize one of the biggest stars in the game.

  8. Premier League Preview: Chelsea vs. Sunderland

    May 22, 2015, 4:40 PM EDT

    Britain Soccer Premier League AP

    Preview of Chelsea-Sunderland match on Championship Sunday, available to watch on NBCSN beginning at 10 a.m. ET.

  9. Americans Abroad preview: Guzan benched, Friedel could make farewell appearance

    May 22, 2015, 3:54 PM EDT

    Colchester United v Tottenham Hotspur - Pre Season Friendly Getty Images

    As usual, several Americans are ready to take the pitch in Europe this weekend.

  10. Premier League Preview: Newcastle United vs. West Ham United

    May 22, 2015, 3:20 PM EDT

    Newcastle United v West Bromwich Albion - Premier League Getty Images

    If the Magpies win they will survive on the final day. Watch them host West Ham live on USA, online via Live Extra, 10 a.m. ET.

  11. Report: Bad-boy Dani Osvaldo linked with move to New York Red Bulls

    May 22, 2015, 2:52 PM EDT

    Dani Osvaldo, Inter Milan Dani Osvaldo, Inter Milan

    Are the Red Bulls willing to take a risk on Osvaldo to bolster their attacking options?

  12. Premier League Preview: Hull City vs. Manchester United

    May 22, 2015, 2:08 PM EDT

    Tottenham Hotspur v Hull City - Premier League Getty Images

    Can the Tigers pull off a “great escape” on the final day? Watch live on NBC at 10 a.m. ET on Sunday.

  13. Louis van Gaal believes David De Gea will stay at Manchester United

    May 22, 2015, 1:20 PM EDT

    Liverpool v Manchester United - Premier League Getty Images

    The Red Devils boss is confident DDG will be around next season.

  14. TV SCHEDULE: Premier League finale – 10 games, 10 channels on Championship Sunday

    May 22, 2015, 12:40 PM EDT

    CFnp4ZXUMAEF99h

    Here’s how and where to watch every PL game on the final day of the season.

  15. Geoff Cameron takes us behind-the-scenes at Stoke City

    May 22, 2015, 11:15 AM EDT

    Geoff is finishing the season strong and is working on his upper-body. Geoff is finishing the season strong and is working on his upper-body.

    In his latest blog, our man in the PL gives us a glimpse of what life is like at Stoke’s training ground.

  16. MLS gossip: Del Piero, Cisse, De Rossi all linked with moves to the US

    May 22, 2015, 10:30 AM EDT

    UEFA Champions League Final - AC Milan v Liverpool Getty Images

    It’s that time of year again ladies and gents. Get ready for the rumors regarding European veterans heading to MLS.

  17. David Luiz hits out, dismisses reports of him being a “virgin”

    May 22, 2015, 9:56 AM EDT

    FBL-FRA-LIGUE1-LIGUE2-UNFP-AWARDS FBL-FRA-LIGUE1-LIGUE2-UNFP-AWARDS

    The Brazilian defender wants to put the record straight. David, over to you…

  18. Jose Mourinho, Eden Hazard win Premier League Manager, Player of the Year awards

    May 22, 2015, 9:00 AM EDT

    After already winning two trophies this season, Chelsea cleaned up once again.

  19. Brendan Rodgers insists Raheem Sterling will remain at Liverpool

    May 22, 2015, 8:20 AM EDT

    Liverpool Training Session Liverpool Training Session

    After Sterling’s agent says his client will not sign a new deal at Liverpool, Reds boss is adamant he will remain at Anfield.

Featured video

PST Extra: Relegation drama on final day