Skip to content

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

Mar 17, 2014, 6:00 PM EST

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. 2015 MLS season preview: New England Revolution

    Mar 5, 2015, 1:20 PM EST

    New England logo

    Can the Revs build on a fantastic 2014? Heaps hopes so…

  2. Men In Blazers podcast: Ginormous preview of 2015 MLS season with Alexi Lalas

    Mar 5, 2015, 12:50 PM EST

    meninblazers

    In the latest MiB pod, Alexi Lalas stops by to preview the 2015 MLS season.

  3. MLS Commissioner Don Garber talks new CBA deal; hails players’ role in progress

    Mar 5, 2015, 12:20 PM EST

    MLS ALL-STAR GAME COMING BACK TO DENVER Getty Images

    Here’s what the MLS commish had to say about the new CBA, as months of negotiating finally paid off on Wednesday.

  4. Top 10 breakout players in Major League Soccer for 2015

    Mar 5, 2015, 11:40 AM EST

    Portland Timbers v Real Salt Lake Getty Images

    Who will bounce back or come from nowhere to shine in 2015? Here’s a speculative look.

  5. 2015 MLS season preview: New York Red Bulls

    Mar 5, 2015, 9:30 AM EST

    500px-New_York_Red_Bulls_logo

    How will the Red Bulls get on as Marsch ushers in a new era?

  6. Who, if anybody, won the CBA negotiations in MLS: The players or the league?

    Mar 5, 2015, 8:47 AM EST

    2013 MLS SuperDraft Presented By Adidas Getty Images

    Should the league or the players feel happier on the eve of the 2015 season after a new CBA was agreed?

  7. Winston Reid signs new long-term deal at West Ham United

    Mar 5, 2015, 8:07 AM EST

    West Ham United v Swansea City - Premier League Getty Images

    Reid is going nowhere, as New Zealand international signs new deal at Upton Park.

  8. VIDEO: QPR’s Chris Ramsey “genuinely sick” after loss to Arsenal

    Mar 4, 2015, 10:51 PM EST

    Queens Park Rangers v Arsenal - Premier League Getty Images

    Charlie Austin played well, and the club truly appeared unlucky not to find an equalizer in the 2-1 loss. They were a step off all night.

  9. No. 1 seed DC United out of CONCACAF Champions League despite win vs Alajuelense

    Mar 4, 2015, 10:00 PM EST

    concacaf-champions-league

    The aggregate loss leaves the Montreal Impact as the lone Major League Soccer hope in the CCL semifinals.

  10. Neymar brace puts Barcelona in Copa del Rey final vs Athletic Bilbao (video)

    Mar 4, 2015, 9:16 PM EST

    Neymar, AP

    The clubs have played in 36 finals, second-most to Real Madrid’s 39.

  11. MLS, union come together to avoid calamitous work stoppage

    Mar 4, 2015, 7:58 PM EST

    New MLS logo Getty Images

    Clearly Nick Mendola’s open letter last night did the trick. You’re all welcome.

  12. Spitgate: Did Evans and Cisse spit at each other at St. James Park on Wednesday? Yep.

    Mar 4, 2015, 7:48 PM EST

    Newcastle United v Manchester United - Premier League Getty Images

    The short answer is, “Yes. Yes they did.” Manchester United and Newcastle United had two more spits on target than actual goals on Wednesday.

  13. 2015 MLS Season Preview: D.C. United

    Mar 4, 2015, 7:15 PM EST

    DCUnited

    Last season a one-hit wonder? Not a chance. D.C. United is here to stay.

  14. Lloyd’s brace helps USWNT to winning start in comeback versus Norway at Algarve Cup (video)

    Mar 4, 2015, 7:14 PM EST

    Carli Lloyd (ussoccer.com) Carli Lloyd (ussoccer.com)

    The USWNT is looking to rebound from the 2014 Algarve Cup, where it finished in 7th after drawing Japan and losing to Sweden and Denmark.

  15. 2015 MLS Season Preview: Columbus Crew

    Mar 4, 2015, 6:30 PM EST

    Crew

    Columbus needs to build on last season’s success or see it flutter away in the winds of time. Can they seize the season?

  16. Rodgers, Henderson know Liverpool’s in form at the right time. How high can they climb?

    Mar 4, 2015, 6:19 PM EST

    Soccer - Barclays Premier League - Liverpool v Burnley - Anfield AP

    And all parties are sounding quite confident, almost in the cavalier “of course we won” tone we heard so much last season.

  17. Jose Mourinho says his Chelsea team “were brothers on the pitch” in crucial win

    Mar 4, 2015, 5:52 PM EST

    Blues battle to hard-fought win at West Ham, as Mourinho hails his sides display.