The FourFourTwo Preview: Galatasaray vs Chelsea
Strikers, strikers, strikers. Jose Mourinho just can't get enough of them as he prepares to face off against arguably his best-ever front-man on Wednesday.
- G’tasaray 1-0 Besiktas (Lge)
- Antalyaspor 2-2 G’tasaray (Lge)
- G’tasaray 0-0 Antalyaspor (Cup)
- G’tasaray 3-0 Ekisehirspor (Lge)
- Tokatspor 0-3 G’tasaray (Cup)
- Chelsea 1-0 Everton (Lge)
- Man City 2-0 Chelsea (Cup)
- WBA 1-1 Chelsea (Lge)
- Chelsea 3-0 Newcastle (Lge)
- Man City 0-1 Chelsea (Lge)
The Portuguese has been quashing talk of Edinson Cavani and Zlatan Ibrahimovic moving from France to west London, claiming Radamel Falcao "does not have a team… Monaco is a club to end [your career with]" and 'joking' about the deficiencies (and ages) of his current failing strikeforce.
This summer could yet see the return of Chelsea deity Didier Drogba to Stamford Bridge, but his immediate focus is bouncing the Blues out of this season's Champions League with Galatasaray. "It’s nice to play against your old team, but when you are emotional, like me, it’s going to be difficult," said the Ivorian. "I have to be professional and respect the shirt I am wearing."
Chelsea made hard work of what was, on paper, a straightforward group, losing twice to a Basel side who failed to reach the knockout stage. But the Mourinho machine's cogs have clicked into gear since losing late on to Stoke in early December; the 'champion-like' win over Everton on Saturday stretching their unbeaten Premier League run to 12 matches for the concession of just four goals. They have also only conceded three goals in the Champions League this season, the best defensive record alongside Atletico Madrid.
Mourinho's main concern is in central midfield. Nemanja Matic is cup-tied having already competed in the competition for Benfica this term, while both David Luiz and John Obi Mikel were absent at the weekend and Oscar and Ramires picked up minor injuries.
Their Turkish opponents surprised many by pipping Juventus to qualification in a final group game that lasted two days due to snow in Istanbul and saw coaches Roberto Mancini and Antonio Conte admit the weather-affected showdown should not have gone ahead.
Second in the Super Lig, four points behind Fenerbahce, Gala head into Wednesday's clash having lost just one of their previous 20 games in all competitions, keeping seven clean sheets in the last eight.
And Wesley Sneijder, another former darling of the Special One from their treble-winning time together at Inter Milan, hopes to use the familiarity to his team's gain, saying: "Mourinho knows us well and that is an advantage but the same applies for us, we know Mourinho very well, perhaps better than the Chelsea players know us."
Galatasaray have only lost one of their last seven Champions League home games (6-1 to Real Madrid earlier this season), but Chelsea have won the two previous competitive encounters, in 1999/00, and are the only English team to have beaten Galatasaray on their own soil in the Champions League, 5-0 in October 1999.
Key battle: Didier Drogba vs John Terry
Who else? The 35-year-old target-man, who plundered exactly 100 league goals for the Blues from 2004-12, will look to add to the 12 he's bagged for Galatasaray this season and terrorise his former cohort; a fascinating contest between two seasoned campaigners with immense respect for each other.
Drogba has scored twice in six Champions League group games this term and relishes the big occasion. He provided the vital flick-on for Sneijder to sink Juventus in the final group game, while in the reverse fixture in Turin he bagged a goal and an assist, set up 3 chances for team-mates and won 7 of his 10 aerial duels.
Terry played every minute of Chelsea's first 24 league games this season and has exuded confidence since regaining a regular place in the starting XI under Mourinho. He misplaced just 1 of his 99 passes in his last European outing against Steaua in December, but will be expecting a battle against his former stablemate.
There's little love lost between Mourinho and Mancini, who was replaced by the Portuguese at Inter in 2008 and watched on as the Nerazzurri stormed their way to the the treble in 2010. And the Italian, who twice failed to beat Jose's Real Madrid in last season's Champions League group phase with Manchester City, has been keen to point out he played no small part in Mourinho's successful era at San Siro.
"Mourinho won the Champions League with Inter because he inherited a good squad,” said Mancini. "A squad that, in the same way as it is at Manchester City, I built. It was a team that had a very strong mentality. When I arrived at Inter, they played a poor brand of football. I changed that."
The assessment only drew laughter from Mourinho, who retorted: "It’s funny, it’s funny. It’s funny because my team in the final had Lucio, [Thiago] Motta, [Diego] Milito, [Samuel] Eto’o, [Goran] Pandev and Sneijder. From my 11 players, he [Mancini] didn't work with six of them. So he made a five-a-side team." Let battle commence.
Facts and figures
- Chelsea have won their 2 previous competitive encounters with Galatasaray, both in the Champions League group stages in 1999/00 (6 goals for, 0 against).
- Chelsea are the only English team to have beaten Galatasaray on their own soil in the Champions League, back in October 1999 (0-5). It’s the Blues’ biggest away win the competition.
- Galatasaray have conceded 14 goals in the Champions League this season, the highest tally among the 16 teams who have reached the knockout stages.
- Chelsea have only conceded 3 goals in the Champions League this season, the best defensive tally alongside Atletico Madrid.
- This game will pit together the top scoring African players in the history of the Champions League: Didier Drogba (42 goals) and Samuel Eto’o (29).
- Wesley Sneijder has scored 3 goals in his last 4 Champions League games at home.
More FFT Stats Zone facts
A typically tense first leg with neither side keen to give an inch. The scheming of Hazard, Oscar and Willian do enough to hand Chelsea a slender lead. 0-1.
SCHALKE VS REAL MADRID
- All 6 of Schalke’s goals in the Champions League this season have been scored in second half.
- Cristiano Ronaldo has scored 30 goals in his last 24 Champions League games. He has 9 this season, the highest tally.
- Real Madrid have scored in each of their last 31 Champions League games, the longest run in the history of the competition. The last time they failed to find the net was against Barcelona in April 2011 (0-2).
Meanwhile, on Screen Two...
While Didier does battle with Jose in Istanbul, Klass-Jan Huntelaar will also be looking to get one over on his old side as Schalke host Real Madrid in Gelsenkirchen.
Los Blancos will be in buoyant mood having wrestled control of the La Lig title race with a 3-0 win over Elche on Saturday, their 16th win in their last 17 outings in all competitions, while both Barcelona and Atletico Madrid slipped up on their travels.
Schalke pinched second place in their group behind Chelsea but have been reinvigorated since the winter break; a goalless draw against Mainz at the weekend halting a run of four consecutive wins to lift them up to fourth in the standings and two points second-placed Bayer Leverkusen. Nevertheless, coach Jens Keller knows his side need a 'minor miracle' if they are to reach the last eight. Their best bet might be convincing legendary forward Raul, revered by both clubs, to turn out for the Die Konigsblauen, with the former Spain international striker admitting: "At first I thought I'd love to play."
But, of course, there's always hope. Real Madrid have lost each of their last six Champions League games on German soil, with defeats to Bayer Leverkusen and Werder Bremen preceding two beatings by Bayern Munich and last season's double setback against Dortmund.