Few ties in the Champions League have as many story lines as the upcoming matchup between Chelsea FC and Galatasaray SK of the Turkish Super Lig. Jose Mourinho against his former players Didier Drogba and Wesley Sneijder, Drogba facing his old club for the first time, old foes Roberto Mancini and Mourinho squaring off, and many more. In the midst of all this there can be a tendency to forget that there is still a football match to be played.
Chelsea head to one of the most intimidating venues in Europe in the Türk Telekom Arena where visiting teams are often greeted with smoke bombs, flares, and banners proclaiming “Welcome to Hell”. The last time Chelsea went to “Hell” they won 5-0 so Chelsea fans will be hoping for a similar result tomorrow.
Mourinho plays it close to the vest when travelling in the first leg of Champions League fixtures and will likely do the same here. Chelsea will be looking for an away goal however and can certainly score at will when clicking on all cylinders. Nemanja Matic is cup-tied and Oscar, David Luiz, and John Obi Mikel are facing late fitness tests to determine if they play or not. This does not give Mourinho many options in midfield but we may see Andre Schurrle or Mohamed Salah given a rare start.
Galatasaray are the defending domestic champions and advanced from a tough group the included Real Madrid and Juventus. Their last match in Istanbul with Juve was postponed halfway through due to poor pitch conditons which lead to the Italian club crying foul but Gala advanced anyway. They will be without Aydin Yilmaz and Eray Iscan but they also feature the dangerous Burak Yilmaz who scored eight goals in the Champions League last season but has yet to score in this campaign. Chelsea fans may recognize some familiar faces such as Hamit Altintop, keeper Fernando Muslera, and defender Felipe Melo.
This will be a tense affair with a raucous environment but nothing the Blues have not seen before. The most intriguing individual matchup will be between John Terry and Drogba as they will face each other for the first time after training together for eight years. The pair probably know each other’s games inside-out and the clash should provide for some fascinating viewing.
After the initial shock of seeing Drogba lining up opposite them, Chelsea will settle in and if all things go according to plan, take control of the game. The ideal scenario would be to leave Istanbul with a three or more goal cushion so Drogba can return to Stamford Bridge and receive the ovation he so richly deserves without the tension of the tie still being in doubt.
Match prediction: Chelsea 3-1 Galatasaray
Match Notes and Stats:
- Chelsea are the last English team to beat Galatasaray in Istanbul. Since then, Gala has won three and drawn once.
- Drogba has never played old teammates Petr Cech, Frank Lampard, or John Terry even in an international match.
- Galatasary have reached the Champions League semifinals once and the quarterfinals five times.
Follow us on Twitter at @PrideOLondon
Like us on Facebook at The Pride of London