Champions League Preview – Tuesday 18th March
The final week of last 16 matches kicks-off on Tuesday with one tie being a lot closer than the other.
Whilst Chelsea and Galatasaray hangs in the balance following the 1-1 draw in Turkey three weeks ago, Real Madrid are all but through against German club Schalke.
Two completely different prospects, but both should provide some cracking entertainment.
Chelsea V Galatasaray. 7:45PM. ITV 1
The Blues will be utterly disappointed at the fact they couldn’t establish a first leg lead over Turkish club Galatasaray but should have enough to make amends at Stamford Bridge.
Despite not winning in Istanbul, Chelsea were able to take a slight advantage by scoring an away goal. That early Fernando Torres strike puts Mourinho’s men in the driving seat and if they can open the scoring in London then they will almost certainly reach the last eight.
With Manchester United trailing Olympiakos 2-0 and the other two English clubs eliminated, Chelsea could be the Premier League’s only hope of Champions League success this year. The Blues famously won the trophy in 2012 before lifting the Europa League last season and are aiming for a hat-trick of European triumphs. If they can mastermind a route to European football’s biggest prize then it would arguably go down as Mourinho’s biggest achievement in West London.
The other talking point is the highly anticipated return of Didier Drogba, who hit the Blues winning penalty in Munich. The Ivorian spent eight trophy laden years at Stamford Bridge and is considered an idol amongst the Chelsea faithful. However, there will be no time for reminiscing here as the home side need a big performance to reach the quarter-finals.
This one is far from over and if Mancini’s Galatasaray can open the scoring then we’ll suddenly have an epic battle on our hands. Nevertheless, even the Italian manager admits that Chelsea are the far superior team and the Blues should progress.
Chelsea V Galatasaray Betting
Chelsea are the clear favourites for this important clash with Bet 365 pricing the Blues at 2/5. Galatasaray are 8/1, whilst the draw can be backed at 4/1.
Jose Mourinho’s men should have enough to progress and as long as they can keep the returning Drogba at bay are likely to do it without conceding.
The Blues will want to kill this tie off as quickly as possible and will be out to assert their dominance from the off. Expect a lot of pressure from Chelsea, which could result in lots of corners so look out for that nearer kick-off.
Mourinho’s teamtalk will be made much easier if his side are leading by the interval; they should step up to the challenge.
Real Madrid V Schalke. 7:45PM. Sky Sports 1
At the Bernabeu, Real Madrid face Schalke in what will be one of the most pointless Champions League knockout matches to ever take place.
Los Blancos are already qualified, make no mistake about that. Schalke will not be abel to overturn that 6-1 deficit. Bookmakers are offering up to 500/1 for the Germans to progress – you’d be better off buying a lottery ticket.
However, what the Germans can do in Madrid is restore some pride and Jens Keller’s men will be out for victory in Spain. If they can reduce the margin of victory then it’ll be considered a very good night indeed and would be a huge boost to their momentum as they look to confirm their place in next year’s competition via their Bundesliga campaign.
As for Real Madrid, this is essentially a training session. Ancelotti has the difficult task of balancing the push for momentum with the prospect of Sunday’s potential title-deciding el Clasico with Barcelona. The Blancos would love to enter the weekend clash on the back of another victory but will be weary of suffering any injuries, particularly as Karim Benzema is already a doubt for that pivotal encounter.
Madrid will have the ability to win regardless of which XI Ancelotti picks. However, the tie is already over and so they may effectively look to keep possession and frustrate Schalke by running down the clock.
As long as they don’t do anything stupid, they’ll coast through to the quarter-final.
Real Madrid V Schalke Betting
Bet 365 have established Real Madrid as the short-priced favourites at 2/9, whilst the draw is 6/1 and an away win is 14/1.
With the Clasico awaiting, Ancelotti probably has one eye focused on Barcelona and could well rest top stars like Bale. Ronaldo has been confirmed as a starter and will be out for goals on his quest to win the top-scorer award but will probably be replaced at some stage. However, scoring goals is not an issue for this match, as long as Madrid don’t concede six then they’ll be through to the last eight. With Benzema already missing, the potential absence of other attacking talent could make Schalke a much brighter prospect then one might first imagine.
The result is almost irrelevant to Madrid and even if they do win it might be at a canter.
Saving face is important to Schalke and they will be up for this challenge. They must approach this match as if it were 0-0 and will be out to please their fans. Regardless of the circumstances, a win at the Bernabeu would still go down as an historic achievement for the German club.
One player who knows what it takes to score at the home of Real Madrid is former Blacnos star Klaas Jan Huntelaar, who also bagged Schalke’s late consolation in Gelsenkirchen.
In an ideal world, Ancelotti would still want to win this match. However, he may be more concerned with keeping Schalke’s score down in order to keep the defensive momentum going into Sunday’s key battle with Barcelona. If Madrid do win, then a one or two-nil victory could be the most likely scoreline.