Galatasaray show a lot of the signs of a team that can pull off a Champions League stunner. They have a very deep stable of players and rotate constantly, which, as Olympiacos showed against Manchester United on Tuesday, makes them a bit unpredictable. They also have the ability to change formations at any time. They have a couple of game-changing stars in Wesley Sneijder and Didier Drogba. There are reasons to believe they could challenge Chelsea.
And then you remember that their manager is Roberto Mancini, who is hilariously inept in the UEFA Champions League. He was a brilliant player and he's won lots of domestic honors as a manager, but this competition has always been horrible to him. He underachieved with the Inter Milan team that Jose Mourinho guided to a historic treble, then failed to get out of the group stage twice with Manchester City.
If there's anyone who can screw up a good thing in Europe, it's Mancini, so Galatasaray would be underdogs against just about anyone. Then you consider that they're playing Chelsea, who have historically been great in Europe even in awful seasons. They're managed by the aforementioned Mourinho, who is historically spectacular in this competition. And suddenly, just because of the managers, it's very hard to take Galatasaray as a serious threat to the Blues.
Of course, Mancini's never had Didier Drogba or Wesley Sneijder, two players who regularly up their games on this stage. Yes, Galatasaray got creamed by Real Madrid in the group stage, but that was the group stage and Madrid are absolutely ridiculous this season. It doesn't mean they're not good enough to compete with Chelsea, does it?
Okay, so a 6-1 home loss to Madrid and Mancini on the bench probably cancels out any reasons to believe the Turkish giants can give Chelsea a scare. But just try to believe this tie will be competitive and have fun with it, maybe?
Galatasaray are starting to get healthy, but they don't quite have their best players fit yet, particularly on the defensive side of the ball. Gökhan Zan could start, but he has just come back from a hamstring problem and might not be risked. Aydin Yilmaz is in the same boat, having recently recovered from an ankle injury. Don't expect to see Aurélien Chedjou, who injured his groin a little less than a month ago. Hakan Balta and Hamit Altintop are also slight doubts, but should be available.
Chelsea are without Nemanja Matić and Mohamed Salah, who are cup-tied. Marco van Ginkel is also out with a long-term knee injury. Other than that, Jose Mourinho has a fairly clean bill of health, but all of Oscar, David Luiz, and John Obi Mikel will have late fitness tests to determine how ready they are to play.
Projected lineups (left to right)
David Luiz (or Ramires) vs. Wesley Sneijder - Whether Ramires or David Luiz is playing in Chelsea's midfield, one of them will be the man responsible for most of the hard closing down and pressuring in the center of the pitch. While Galatasaray has a couple of versatile forwards and some decent crossers, most of their attacks run through Wesley Sneijder, and their only idea when opponents cut off his supply is to play direct balls. If he's not allowed to run Gala's attack, they'll end up depending on a bad defensive error or a set piece to score.
Jose Mourinho vs. Roberto Mancini - 99 times out of 100, Jose Mourinho will win a tactical battle against Roberto Mancini ... but Mancini still wins that one time. Could this be that one time? While Galatasaray don't have any stars who aren't aging rapidly or retreads from more successful teams, they do have a versatile and deep squad of Champions League caliber talent. They've played in 4-4-2, 4-3-1-2, 3-4-1-2 and 3-4-2-1 formations to decent success this season. Maybe Mancini's lineup looks nothing like the one above, catches Mourinho completely off guard and works to perfection.
In six Champions League ties so far, the "bigger" team has played the away leg first and won five out of six. The only team that failed to pull off an away win is Manchester United, who are crap. Look for the Blues to continue the trend. 1-0 Chelsea.