Scouting Galatasaray: Real Madrid Return To Istanbul

Manuel Queimadelos Alonso

Madrid return to the Turk Telekom Arena on Tuesday after an eventful trip last year in the quarter-finals.

Cast your mind back to April 2013. Real Madrid were up 4-0 on aggregate with Galatasaray needing five goals at home to make up for the away goal Madrid scored inside the first quarter hour of the second leg of the tie. The match commentators were all agreed: the quarter-final was, for all intents and purposes, over.

Galatasaray failed to get the memo. Instead, Madrid fans worldwide were left jittery as they scored three times after the break inside fifteen minutes as Emmanuel Eboué, Wesley Sneijder and Didier Drogba all scored.

And while it's worth remembering the injuries to key players both before and during the match, and Ronaldo's late goal to make it 3-2 on the night and 5-3 on aggregate, there was also a sense that in an electric atmosphere like the Turk Telekom Arena, the players in Galatasaray's expensively-assembled side didn't know when they were beaten.

The crowd certainly didn't.

Galatasary: The Squad & The Season Thus Far

Last year, Galatasary were league-leaders in April. This time their season has been, so far, something of a disappointment. After their first two wins they have drawn four in a row. They have been poor, short on goals, and short on ideas, but this is a team full of class and Champions League experience and one can't help the impression this is still a team that could manage an upset. There are winners of the trophy on the team and many more who have played in Champions League finals and semifinals. Their own coach, Fatih Terim, is convinced that his team can, once again, win at home, and he has said as much this week.

Judging from the attitude shown by players last year (and it is largely the same squad) he has reason to have faith in his players. Galatasaray are not a kick-and-rush team. They enjoy keeping possession, and they play with some considerable style when in form. Setbacks against Schalke and Real Madrid last season that would have had any rational team reeling with shock (like away goals conceded and impossible margins to overcome) seemed to have little practical effect on their game - hence the comeback against Schalke and their ridiculously spirited second half display against Madrid. This is a team of veterans that has, literally, seen it all.

For reasons that are unclear in a transfer period where strikers were selling at a premium, no big European club came calling for last season's striking sensation Burak Yilmaz. Expect him to start next to Didier Drogba, who scored one of the best goals of the Champions League season last year against Real Madrid. Wesley Sneijder, who scored another screamer, is still in the side. So is Fernando Muslera, the enigmatic keeper who is anything but an ordinary player: constantly putting in performances that are either world-class or second division and rarely something in between.

With an experienced but aging back-line, and a strike-force of that quality, most match-previews are predicting goals and this writer agrees.

The Venue

Welcome to the Turk Telekom Arena, the award winning stadium that is proud holder of the Guinness Book of World Records award for loudest stadium roar ever recorded at an amazing 131.76 decibels. With fans so passionate that the German police confirmed having to prevent a number of them from tunneling into Schalke's Veltins Arena for the last-16 last season, it's hardly surprising. Those were a handful of away fans. 52,000 will be greeting Madrid tomorrow.

And while there are limits to what sort of mischief the crowd can get up to under UEFA's crowd regulations (they proudly turn their stadium into "hell" for league-matches with flares, for example) expect some considerable passion. This is not the venue in which Madrid would likely have wanted to start their Champions League campaign.

There is no doubt that last-year's near-comeback was largely due to an irrepressible atmosphere inside the stadium.

The Manager

Fatih Terim is in his third stint at Galatasaray. He's been a success, winning the league every time. He has experience coaching in Italy too. When he arrived back in Istanbul in 2011, rivals Fenerbahce were top of the league with an 8 point cushion while Galatasaray were languishing mid-table. A streak of 9 straight wins later and it was Galatasaray who won the league.

He is an outstanding man-manager, dealing well with the not entirely balanced squad of aging superstars his club have purchased for him.


A world-class manager, a hellish stadium, a team of unimpressionable veterans and last year's scoring sensation: Madrid fans writing off Galatasaray do so at their peril.

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