Champions League Preview – 26h February
The first legs of this year’s Champions League round of sixteen come to a conclusion on Wednesday with 2012 winners Chelsea heading to Turkey, whilst Spanish giants Real Madrid travel to Germany.
It should be an interesting night.
Galatasaray V Chelsea
The Turk Telekom Arena will be buzzing for what should be an epic battle between Roberto Mancini’s Galatasaray and Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea.
This encounter sees Didier Drogba face former side Chelsea for the first time whilst it also offers Mancini to claim victory over one of his rival clubs during his spell at Manchester City. Meanwhile, it is a battle of two former Inter Milan coaches too and so this clash really does produce a lot of talking points during the build up.
Drogba memorably ended his Chelsea career by scoring the winning penalty in the 2012 final and this reunion will be a special night for the Ivorian. He clearly has a soft spot for the club with whom he spent eight trophy laden years and will relish a return to Stamford Bridge next month. Nevertheless, he’ll have his eyes set on a quarter-final spot and, with the support of Wesley Sneijder and co will cause a big threat to the Blues defence.
However, if there is one defender capable of taming Drogba then it is John Terry. After eight years of training daily with the Ivorian, the Chelsea captain will know exactly what to expect. The defender has been near faultless in recent weeks and could prove the key figure in this contest.
Mourinho will be concerned with the lack of goals, which was again evidenced against Everton on Saturday, but his team of stars aren’t top of the Premier League without reason. Turkey is a very difficult place to go, but Chelsea definitely have the talent to earn a positive result.
Galatasaray V Chelsea Betting
Mourinho’s Chelsea are 19/20 favourites (Bet 365) with the home side priced 10/3 and the draw 5/2.
As much as the Blues are fancied to qualify, Mourinho will probably settle for a draw as he knows the Londoners will probably get the job done back at Stamford Bridge as long as they avoid defeat in Istanbul.
Even away from home, the Blues will be expected to dominate the possession. Galatasaray only qualified due to the terrible conditions in the rescheduled clash with Juventus and the Turks aren’t quite at the stage of competing at the top level just yet. It could be a very cagey opening period.
Mourinho will demand that his defence keeps it tight and John Terry is unquestionably the key man in Chelsea’s back five. If he can keep Drogba at bay then the Blues have a great chance of success. If he puts in another dominant display then there is no reason that he can’t help the English side to a clean sheet.
Schalke V Real Madrid
After missing Saturday’s league win against Elche through suspension, following a failed appeal, Cristiano Ronaldo returns and will be highly motivated. The Ballon d’Or holder scored a record-breaking nine goals in the group stage and will be wanting to leapfrog Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who now has 10 following his brace in Leverkusen last week.
If that wasn’t reason to be worried, Schalke might want to cast their eyes towards Gareth Bale’s sublime strike at the weekend; a glimpse of why Los Blancos were prepared to make him the world’s most expensive player. Combined with the emergence of Jese, the undeniable talent of Benzema and midfield dominance of Modric and Alonso, fans of the German club would be forgiven for being pessimistic heading into this one.
That’s not to dismiss Schalke completely, they are a very competent side and are on a great run domestically. However, Real Madrid’s form in 2014 has been exceptional and sees them top La Liga as well as reaching the Copa del Rey final. A potential treble is still on the cards and a 10th Champions League title is definitely the priority.
Schalke lost 3-0 to Chelsea at home and if they play like that again then a similar fate will be inflicted on Wednesday. The Germans are capable of causing an upset, but it’s unlikely.
Real Madrid were humiliated on their trip to Germany last year. They should make up for that here.
Schalke V Real Madrid Betting
Schalke are clear underdogs at 13/2 (Bet 365) but have been known to cause an upset. Real Madrid are firm favourites at 4/9 whilst the draw can be backed at 4/1.
The combination of domestic suspension and race for the accolade of being the Champions League top-scorer means that Cristiano Ronaldo should be well up for this. With Bet Fred offering this match as part of the DD/HH promotion, you’ve simply got to take a punt.
Madrid will attack, that’s instilled in the club’s DNA. Los Blancos have improved defensively under Ancelotti, registering a new club record of clean sheets earlier this year. However, with the wealth of attacking options at their disposal, goals are always the aim of the day and if Chelsea could hit three then there is no reason they can’t score at least a couple in Gelsenkirchen; if they do then there’s a good chance the first will come before the interval.