Turk Telecom Arena, Istanbul
February 26, 2014; 19:45 BST
Chelsea FC travel to Turkey to face Galatasaray in the first leg of their highly anticipated Champions League round-of-16 tie tomorrow, as Didier Drogba faces his former side, while Wesley Sneijder goes up against his former mentor Jose Mourinho.
Galatasaray, who are currently in second place in the Superlig table, are coming into this game on the back of a crucial 1-0 win over Besiktas as Selcuk Inan scored the winner from the penalty spot. The win extended their 11 match unbeaten streak in all competitions and also reduced the gap at the top with league leaders Fenerbahce. They also have a good record at home in this competition and have lost only one of their last seven Champions fixture in this stadium.
But Chelsea do have history on their side as the London club have won their previous two meetings against Galatasaray in Europe. The Blues also remain the only English side to have defeated the Turkish club at Istanbul, back in the 1999-2000 season. The London club are currently leading the Premier League table and are coming into this game on the back of a vital 1-0 win over Everton last weekend.
This game is sure to be an exciting affair and the atmosphere in the stadium will be electric. Chelsea will not only have to deal with a strong Galatasaray side, but also the partisan crowd in the stadium.
Team news and tactics
Roberto Mancini doesn’t have too many injury concerns to deal with ahead of this fixture. 26-year-old midfielder Aydin Yilmaz, whose last appearance came in the match against Trabzonspor in December last year, continues his tenure at the side-lines.
It will be interesting to see the team Mancini selects for this game. The former Manchester City manager has used both 3-4-1-2 and 4-2-3-1 formations so far with Galatasaray. In their last match against Besiktas at the weekend he preferred to use a three-man defence, but he is likely to change to a more conservative 4-2-3-1 against Chelsea in Europe, like he used against Real Madrid in the group stages.
Based on that tactics Mancini is expected to make three changes to the starting line-up he use against Besiktas. Aurelien Chedjou will return to the center of the defence alongside Semih Kaya. Hakan Balta, who was part of the three-man defence at the back in the last game, will move to a fullback role, while former Arsenal defender Emmanuel Eboue starts at the right back spot.
This means Alex Telles and Veysel Sari will drop back to the bench for this game, while Bruma will start on the left wing. Burak Yilmaz will start on the right and look to support Drogba upfront on every opportunity.
The biggest problem for Galatasaray could come on their left wing where Eden Hazard will be up against Emmanuel Eboue. The former Arsenal man can be defensively vulnerable at times, and with Yilmaz having the tendency to drift inside, he could be exposed by the Belgium international. Selcuk Inan will have to cover Eboue defensively when Chelsea have possession.
Expected starting line-up (4-2-3-1): Muslera (GK); Eboue, Kaya, Chedjou, Balta; Inan, Melo; Yilmaz, Sneijder, Bruma; Drogba
Unlike Mancini, Mourinho does have a few injuries to contain with ahead of this fixture. There are doubts about the fitness of David Luiz, Oscar and John Obi Mikel and the trio are expected to undergo late fitness test before the start of this match. While Luiz and Oscar are unlikely to start in this game, Mikel is expected to recover in time. Marco van Ginkel remains the only long term injury concern for Chelsea at the moment.
Chelsea will also miss out on their winter signings Nemanja Matic and Mohamed Salah, who are cup tied and ineligible to participate in this year’s competition for the Blues.
Jose Mourinho has often used a very counter-attacking 4-3-3 formation in big away games this season and he could revert back to this tactics once again during this game. The Chelsea manager is expected to make two changes to the side he fielded against Everton at the weekend.
Matic will be replaced by Ramires, while Oscar will make way for Mikel. The duo will form a three man midfield alongside Frank Lampard as Mourinho will opt for extra defensive cover. Samuel Eto’o will lead the attack while Hazard and Willian will support him in a three man attack.
Chelsea are expected to sit deep in this game and rely on their wingers to hit Galatasaray on the break. Containing their former striker Didier Drogba will be of utmost importance and his battle with Gary Cahill and John Terry could decide the outcome of this game. Mikel on the other hand will be expected to keep a close watch on Sneijder as most of the home side’s creativity would flow from the former Inter Milan midfielder.
Expected starting line-up (4-2-3-1): Cech (GK); Ivanovic, Cahill, Terry, Azpilicueta; Ramires, Mikel, Lampard; Willian, Eto’o, Hazard
Players to watch-out for: Didier Drogba (Galatasaray); Eden Hazard (Chelsea)
Prediction: Galatasaray 1-1 Chelsea