After a fantastic group stage performance, the Champions League round of 16 couldn’t have come at a worse time for Schalke, struggling in the Bundesliga to keep it together. On the other end of the fence, Galatasaray are in excellent form, reinforced with a few shiny new purchases to help their European season last a little longer.
Gala played some fantastic football in the group stage, and won the last three matches to put themselves in the knockout stage for the first time since 2001. If the first half of the season was about the wonderful Burak Yilmaz, scoring six champions league goals, Wesley Sneijder and Didier Drogba, both players who have lifted the Champions League trophy were brought to make the knockout stages about them.
In the league things have been going well for Galatasaray as well, currently holding a six point lead over Fenerbahce in their attempt to win a second consecutive league title. Didier Drogba made his debut in Manisa against Akhisar Belediyespor, scoring right after coming off the bench and also setting up Burak’s goal a few minutes later. They expect a lot from him in Turkey, and Drogba, after not really enjoying his time in China, is hungry for European glory once again.
Things haven’t been very happy for Schalke, who lost one of their best players during the transfer window, forced to sell Lewis Holtby to Tottenham for only €1.7 due to his expiring contract. They haven’t won a single match since he left, drawing two and losing twice since his departure, with Michel Bastos being the only player to get on the score sheet. They’ve fallen to 9th in the Bundesliga, with their brilliant counter attacking football in the group stage nothing but a distant memory.
Prediction – Schalke aren’t a broken team, not yet. Despite the departure of Holtby, their left side with Fuchs and Bastos could be very dangerous on the counter, and Galatasaray do have a tendency to forget about defending at times. Schalke are in terrible form, but I still feel like they can make something out of this one, probably a draw.
Projected lineups – Galatasaray: Muslera, Riera, Kaya, Nounkeu, Eboue; Inan, Melo, Altintop, Sneijder; Yilmaz, Drogba. Schalke – Unnerstall, Hoger, Howedes, Matip, Fuchs; Jones, Neustadter, Farfan, Draxler, Bastos; Huntelaar.