Chelsea’s array of attacking talent, including Eden Hazard, ought to see them through against Galatasaray
Fresh from defeat at the hands of Aston Villa, whose squad is so unrecognisable (Yacouba Sylla? Callum Robinson?) that it sounds like it belongs in the seventh year of a Football Manager save, Chelsea come into their Champions League round of 16 return tie with Galatasaray in need of a convincing performance.
The hype around the fixture has centred largely on Didier Drogba’s return to Stamford Bridge. It’s easy to see why, Drogba, summoning the spirit of Diego Maradona circa 1986, having won the Champions League on his own for Chelsea two years ago. But this is no mere testimonial, as Galatasaray look to do to Chelsea what they did to the equally well-fancied Juventus in the final game of Group B.
On the face of it, they have a chance. To qualify from a group featuring Real Madrid and Juve was impressive, even if freak weather was a contributing factor. And their first XI isn’t half bad: Drogba and Wesley Sneijder obviously merit close attention, but Chelsea must also find a way through the impressive midfield axis of Selcuk Inan and Felipe Melo, as well as a way to shackle Drogba’s partner, Burak Yilmaz.
Chelsea v Galatasaray Betting Odds
Chelsea win – 1.39
Galatasaray win – 8.60
Draw – 4.50
(All odds provided by GR88.com are accurate as of today and subject to change)
Galatasaray’s away form, however, is patchy at best: only three times this season have they won away from home, the last coming in December. Oh, and there’s also the Roberto Mancini factor, the scarf-bothering manager yet to guide any of his teams past the Champions League quarter finals.
Chelsea, as we know, have no such troubles. As well as a formidable home record, Jose Mourinho is, well, a really, really good manager, and a likely front four of Hazard, Oscar, Willian and Samuel Eto’o should prove too strong for the visitors.
Still, let’s all hope that Mancini can overcome his European yips and Drogba rediscover his magisterial 2012 form, lest Chelsea progress and, perhaps, win the whole thing. For the sight of John Terry—‘Captain, Leader, Legend’—holding the Champions League trophy aloft once more, and this time with Clive Tyldesley and Andy Townsend fawning over ‘The Special One’ and his ‘fairytale’ homecoming, would be too much for most to take. ‘Welcome’, as Galatasaray fans would say, ‘to Hell.’
Moving on, now, to Wednesday. We’ve all had a good laugh at Brendan Rodgers in the few years he’s been at Liverpool, and deservedly so, since anyone who hangs a self-portrait above their living room fireplace is more David Brent than Brent himself. But after the 0-3 dismantling of Manchester United this weekend, few would now deny the Northern Irishman’s managerial acumen. To quote that Latin motto of his, Rodgers, like a weird Buzz Lightyear, is taking Liverpool ‘through adversity, to the stars.’
But if the mockery reserved for Rodgers is somewhat cushioned by his on-field success, his adversary on Sunday, David Moyes, has no such fallback. The Liverpool match was the first of three crucial tests, and the first of three potential failures. To come is the Manchester derby, a fixture in which his team were battered 4-1 earlier in the season, and tomorrow, Olympiakos come to Old Trafford.
The reasons for Man United’s decline are many. But even if some of the blame lies with Alex Ferguson, what with the threadbare, aging squad he left behind, or with Ed Woodward and the Glazer family, for not securing or not sanctioning the necessary transfers, it’s becoming clearer by the week that Moyes isn’t the man best placed to arrest it. In fact, he’s only making things worse.
To see Manchester United sitting in seventh place in the Premier League, exactly as far from Chelsea in top spot as they are from Hull City in 13th, is one thing. But to see players like Robin van Persie losing game after game and seemingly not caring is something else entirely. #MoyesOut has gone from being a joke thrown around by rival fans to an earnest call from United fans themselves, and, given the season so far, that’s completely understandable.
And yet, it wouldn’t be a surprise if Moyes managed to overturn the two-goal deficit required against the Greek champions. This is partly because they can’t possibly be as bad as they were against Liverpool, and partly because, despite their performance in Athens and their domestic dominance (the title being already wrapped up), Olympiakos are an ordinary side. It also wouldn’t be a surprise to see a 3-0 win greeted with more ‘Moyes Turns Corner’ headlines, only for his side to win but a couple of their next half a dozen games and stay hovering just above Southampton.
The week’s other two matches, meanwhile, aren’t nearly so interesting, so I won’t bother with more than a sentence on each. Real Madrid v Schalke will be watched by a maximum of twelve people, Real’s 1-6 win in Gelsenkirchen rendering this the biggest dead rubber since my overweight masseur perished last year. And Wednesday’s Dortmund v Zenit matchup is hardly any more enticing, although it’s nice that, even if we haven’t yet managed to Kick Racism Out Of Football altogether, Jurgen Klopp’s team can Kick Racists Out Of The Champions League Knockout Stages. That’s something, at least.
Betting Instinct Tip – Manchester United to score three or more goals is 2.82 with GR88.com
KIERAN DODDS (kierandodds) is a history student and writer. He has written about sport, politics and current affairs for the Guardian, the Huffington Post, Africa is a Country, When Saturday Comes, IBWM and others.