With Galatasaray coach Fatih Terim insisting that his side will continue to deploy their attacking style against Real Madrid, the Turkish champions could be setting themselves up for an arduous first leg of their Champions League quarterfinal on Wednesday.
Real Madrid are a side that relish playing on the counter attack, led by the exhilarating pace and ability on either flank of Cristiano Ronaldo and Angel di Maria. Playing with an open approach, while admirable, could well be suicide against such a devastating side on the break. Terim, though, refuses to compromise.
“We're going to play in a way that will make people proud and earn everyone's respect,” he told Marca. “I refuse to change our style -- we aren't afraid of anyone. We'll look to take the game to them, keep the ball and pick our way through any gaps they leave us.”
It is brave talk, but it is hard not to view Galatasaray as a side that plays right into Madrid’s hands.
The January signings of Didier Drogba and Wesley Sneijder have raised expectations and excitement around the Istanbul giants, but the desire of Terim to fit the duo into the side alongside the Champions League’s joint-top scorer Burak Yilmaz is likely to leave them fatally exposed.
Sneijder alone poses problems in the modern game as he is almost required to be played as an old-school No. 10, with the Dutchman now appearing to contribute even less without the ball since his peak when he inspired Inter to Champions League glory in 2010.
Galatasaray will win plaudits for their approach, but the question is whether they are good enough to beat Madrid on their own merits. The answer must surely be no. In back-to-back matches against Barcelona recently, Madrid came out on top on both occasions, with their devastating counters decisive against the side that embodies the concept of playing a match on your own terms.
If, an admittedly below par Barcelona, cannot do it then what chance do Galatasaray have?
In the last round Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson, who, despite some compromising in recent years, is renowned for his attacking style, elected to alter his traditional approach dramatically to specifically negate Madrid’s counters. Playmaker Xabi Alonso was prevented from having time on the ball to pick out passes to Ronaldo and Di Maria, who were both largely shackled by United’s wide men consistently working back.
It was a strategy that was working until a controversial sending off of Nani helped swing the tide of the tie. A strategy of sitting back has also proved successful by lesser teams in La Liga this season. Madrid’s five defeats in the league have largely come against surprising opposition, like Getafe and Granada that limited Los Blancos’ attempts to counter.
Not only are Galatasaray likely to be punished by their tactical approach but also by the makeup of their personnel. Going up against Ronaldo and Di Maria will be two unnatural full-backs in Emmanuel Eboue and Albert Riera.
Both, and especially, Riera, have spent much of their careers as wide midfielders and are far from dependable defensively. While Eboue will get some protection up against Fabio Coentrao and Cristiano Ronaldo from Hamit Altintop, on the other side Riera will receive little support from Sneijder, who is likely to be pushed slightly to the left.
While Galatasaray no longer have the intimidating Ali Sami Yen stadium, if Galatasaray can get Madrid back to Istanbul for the second leg with the tie still in the balance then anything is possible. But it is hard to see that happening, with Madrid potentially putting the tie almost beyond doubt in what should be, at least, a highly entertaining first leg in Madrid.
Prediction: Real Madrid 3-1 Galatasaray
Sports reporter, mainly focusing on my native sport of soccer, but also dabbling in some tennis and Formula One.