Real Madrid manager Jose Mourinho is refusing to take anything for granted as he takes his side to Istanbul with a 3-0 lead form the first leg of their Champions League quarterfinal with Galatasaray.
Already strong favorites to progress before the first leg, goals from Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema and Gonzalo Higuain have put them in an incredibly strong position to make the semifinals for a record 24th time.
Mourinho, though, is understandably trying to prevent an air of complacency from creeping into his squad and has even said that he will be disappointed if his team doesn’t also claim victory in the second leg.
“After our first meeting I told my players that a team who won the first match 3-0 may lose the second by the same result,” he said, according to UEFA.com. “I said anything is possible and we must be very careful against Galatasaray.”
Mourinho denied claims that Xabi Alonso and Sergio Ramos both deliberately got themselves booked last in the closing stages of the first meeting so they could serve their one-match suspensions for the second leg and be clear for a presumptive semifinal.
In other team news, Pepe is struggling with a muscular problem picked up in the 5-1 win over Levante on Saturday, meaning that Raul Albiol is likely to start alongside Raphael Varane in the center of defense. Iker Casillas is again set to be left on the bench.
While Madrid may be happy with their suspensions, the same is not true for Galatasaray. Fatih Terim will be without striker Burak Yilmaz, who has scored eight goals in the Champions League this season, as well as defender Dany Nounkeu.
After last week’s match, Terim lamented the referee’s failure to award his side two penalties -- for an apparent foul on Burak and a handball in the box. Terim is refusing to give up hope of an incredible comeback, but accepts that his side has a huge task in front of them even with the encouragement of their own fans at the Turk Telekom Arena.
“Anything is possible in football but when you are playing against Real Madrid things are not so easy,” he said. “Galatasaray will try everything. I am sure about the ambition and enthusiasm of my players. We have prepared ourselves for any kind of result.”
D: Eboue, Zan, Kaya, Riera
M: Altintop, Melo, Inan, Amarabat
Real Madrid (probable)
D: Arbeloa, Albiol, Varane, Coentrao
M: Khedira, Modric
Di Maria, Ozil, Ronaldo
Prediction: Terim kept to his promise to attack Real Madrid with the trio of Burak, Didier Drogba and Wesley Sneijder last week and, as many predicted -- given Madrid’s counter-attacking strength -- Galatasaray paid the price. When Sniejder was taken off for an extra central defender at the break, it gave a degree of more solidity but they then lacked the impetus going forward that they at least carried in the first half.
The absence of Burak is likely to mean that Terim goes with an extra man in midfield, which in a bizarre way should actually help Galatasaray be more competitive. But their individual ability at the back is just not good enough at this level and Madrid could well win the match to record a resounding victory in the tie.
Galatasaray 1-2 Real Madrid
Where to watch: The second leg of the UEFA Champions League quarterfinal will kick-off at 2:45 p.m. ET. Coverage will be provided by the Fox Soccer Channel, with a live stream available on Fox Soccer 2Go.
Sports reporter, mainly focusing on my native sport of soccer, but also dabbling in some tennis and Formula One.