Carlo Ancelotti becomes the latest coach to begin his quest to deliver Real Madrid a much-prized 10th European Cup when his side takes on Galatasaray in Istanbul on Tuesday. The Italian, who won the Champions League twice with Milan, is spurred on by the challenge of succeeding where 11 coaches have failed in the 11 years since the club last lifted the trophy which those at the Bernabeu hold so dear.
“It’s the most important competition in the world and everyone wants to win it,” he said, according to Real Madrid’s official website. “Things are really balanced and the most important thing is to demonstrate our skill. Our team has a lot and this quality can be a good weapon to make it to the top in this competition. I’m really excited to play in this competition with Real Madrid and win ‘La Decima.’ It’s a fantastic motivation for me.”
It has been a mixed start for Ancelotti domestically. Madrid were not always convincing in winning their first three games, before they had goalkeeper Diego Lopez to thank for emerging from Villarreal with a draw on Saturday. The lineup at El Madrigal provided debuts for both Gareth Bale and Asier Illarramendi but, while Bale scored, Madrid looked far too open defensively.
“I’m not happy because we lacked balance,” explained Ancelotti. “I don’t think that we’ll have problems when it comes to scoring goals because we have players with fantastic skill. We need to defend better and it’s a question of balance. Tomorrow will be a good test, but we’ll try to play to win.”
There were plenty of goals when Madrid and Galatasaray last met. In last season’s quarterfinals, despite losing 3-0 at the Bernabeu, the Turkish champions briefly threatened to produce a dramatic turnaround at the Turk Telekom Arena before eventually falling 5-3 on aggregate. Both of Galatasaray’s big-name January recruits, Didier Drogba and Wesley Sneijder were on target that night and will again be pivotal this time around. Since then, Galatasaray have also added much-sought-after young Portuguese winger Bruma, who made an exciting debut as a substitute at the weekend but is not yet ready for a starting berth.
Another development has been coach Fatih Terim returning to take charge of the Turkish national team on a part-time basis. The season has not started well for his club, however, with Galatasaray drawing their last three matches in the league after claiming victory in their opener.
D: Eboue, Chedjou, Kaya, Balta
M: Amrabat, Melo, Inan, Sneijder
F: Burak, Drogba
Real Madrid (probable)
D: Arbeloa, Pepe, Ramos, Nacho
M: Khedira, Modric
Di Maria, Isco, Ronaldo
Prediction: Both sides have similar problems in trying to get the best out of their attacking talent while not losing all balance defensively. Terim was bold in selecting Drogba, Sneijder and Burak Yilmaz against Real Madrid last season and paid the price. It will be intriguing to see if he is equally attack-minded this time around. Madrid, meanwhile, should be better without the ball if Angel di Maria replaces Bale, who is still seeking full fitness, and Sami Khedira returns in midfield.
There is again likely be no shortage of goals, but the visitors should come out on top.
Galatasaray 1-3 Real Madrid
Where to watch: The Champions League Group B match will kick-off at the Turk Telekom Arena at 2.45 p.m. ET. Coverage will be provided by Fox Sports 2, 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.