Chelsea edged to a 1-0 victory over Everton at the weekend to stay in pole position in the race for the Premier League title, but it will be the Champions League that is their main priority in midweek when they travel to Turkey to play Galatasaray. The Istanbul-based side are managed by former Manchester City boss Roberto Mancini and they have a striker who might just be recognised by the Blues faithful… a certain Didier Drogba. It promises to be quite an occasion!
Chelsea progressed to the knockout stage of Europe’s premier club competition by topping Group E ahead of Schalke, Basel and Steaua Bucharest, but they didn’t have it all their own way, losing home and away to Swiss side Basel. Having said that, Jose Mourinho’s men conceded only three goals from their six group matches (the joint best defensive record of all the teams in the competition, alongside Atletico Madrid and – perhaps surprisingly – Manchester United); and having won their other four matches they were worthy of their finishing position at the top of the group.
Mancini’s Galatasaray, meanwhile, did well to progress to the Round of 16 given they were drawn in a very tough group along with Real Madrid and Juventus (and Copenhagen, but they are hardly in the same class as the other two). Things started badly for the Turks as they were hammered 6-1 at home by Madrid, Cristiano Ronaldo showing his supreme ability with a fine hat-trick. Galatasaray got into their rhythm soon after, though, with a well-deserved 2-2 draw in Turin against Juve and a home win over Copenhagen. Away defeats to the Danes and Real followed before the all-important home win for Mancini’s men against Juve in their final group game, allowing them to sneak through, just a point ahead of the Serie A leaders.
Chelsea are massive favourites with the bookies to progress to the quarter-finals of the Champions League, and over two legs we would agree they should have more than enough to triumph. But we feel they won’t have things all their own way in Istanbul, the atmosphere and perhaps an air of superiority conspiring to lessen Chelsea’s effectiveness. Drogba will be more than eager to score against his former employers and given the Blues have never really replaced the burly striker in terms of attacking potency, there is always a chance the home side could nick this one 1-0.
Having said that, Mourinho has been around the European block more than a few times and he will know exactly what to expect. We fancy he’ll set up in such as way as to push hard for the away goal while also attempting to keep things relatively tight. With John Terry fit again, he and Gary Cahill are sure to relish the challenge of nullifying Drogba’s threat and it will almost certainly be a relatively low-scoring game.
Overall we suspect both managers would be reasonably happy with a draw and if the Blues get the away goal in the process they’ll be in the driving seat for the return leg at the bridge. So our prediction is for the match to end 1-1 to leave the tie alive but Chelsea as the favourites to progress.
LCN Verdict: Galatasaray 1-1 Chelsea