Turkey’s big-spending Galatasaray out to down shaky Schalke

Updated 20 February 2013
0

Turkey’s big-spending Galatasaray out to down shaky Schalke

ISTANBUL: Big-spending Galatasaray will be looking to carry their strong Champions League group stage form into today’s last 16, first leg tie when they host a Schalke 04 side low on confidence.
The Turkish side finished their Group H campaign with wins over Cluj, Manchester United and Braga then pulled off the biggest coup of January’s transfer window by signing Dutch star Wesley Sneijder and Ivory Coast veteran striker Didier Drogba.
Having won last season’s Champions League title with Chelsea, Drogba came off the bench to score on his debut in Friday’s 2-1 win at bottom side Akhisar Belediye to go seven points clear in the Turkish Super Lig Table.
“These investments will pay off,” said Galatasaray president Unal Aysal, who is eager to bring Champions League success to Istanbul.
“The revenue from the Champions League will cover the costs.” Galatasaray have lost just once at the Ali Sami Yen Sports Complex Arena in the league this season and Fatih Terim’s team are looking for four European wins in a row against Schalke.
The hosts hope to reach the quarterfinals for the first time since 2001, while Schalke have reached the last eight twice in recent campaigns, in 2010/11 when they were semifinalists, and in 2007/08.
Although Schalke won their group, including an impressive away win at Arsenal in October, they have just one victory in their last 12 matches to drop from second to ninth.
Schalke are unbeaten in Europe this season and have been boosted by the return of Dutch striker Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, who is fit again after suffering an eye injury.
Royal Blues’ coach Jens Keller, who took over from Huub Stevens in December, makes his Champions League debut and has been told his job is safe — until the end of the season.
Having sold midfielder Lewis Holtby to Tottenham Hotspur, in January, Schalke brought in Michel Bastos from French side Lyon and the Brazil star has scored three goals in his last three games, including both goals at Mainz.
“Even before I made the switch from Lyon to Gelsenkirchen I knew about the quality of this Schalke side,” said Bastos.
“The team have the ability to solve the current problems.” While Schalke showed some fighting spirit to twice come from behind on Saturday, captain Benedikt Hoewedes said his side must build on that.
“We showed morale and fought until the final whistle,” said the Germany defender.
“We now want to take the momentum with us to Istanbul.” Five of the Galatasaray team were born in Germany including midfielder Hamit Altintop who played for Schalke between 2003 and 2007.
“I played my first Champions League match while at Schalke 04 and it will be nice to face them,” said the 30-year-old.
“There are no easy games at this level.
“The draw may seem easier than it could have been, but I know the German culture: they will be a team high on discipline.
“An interesting couple of meetings lie ahead.” With a strong Turkish community in Gelsenkirchen, Galatasaray can count on some support at the Veltins Arena for the second leg in Germany on March 12.


Klopp tells Liverpool: ‘We can make history’

Updated 17 min 49 sec ago
0

Klopp tells Liverpool: ‘We can make history’

  • Blessed with an attacking trio of Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino, a forward line to rival any in Europe, the Reds have played with a devil-may-care attitude.
  • Jordan Henderson: “They (the fans) have played a huge part in us getting this far in the competition. Hopefully, they can create an atmosphere similar to Anfield because it has made a big difference.”

LONDON: Positivity and passion carried Liverpool to today’s Champions League final, and that is what will give them victory against Real Madrid in Kiev. That is the message Reds boss Jurgen Klopp delivered to his players ahead of the showdown with the Spanish giants.
Klopp and Co. head into the clash as marginal underdogs, with Real aiming for their third Champions League crown in as many years. But with nobody backing Liverpool to make the final when the competition started nine months ago, the tag is is not something that has bothered them so far.
Blessed with an attacking trio of Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino, a forward line to rival any in Europe, the Reds have played with a devil-may-care attitude, and Klopp wants his side to forget about the occasion and attack the match as they have done every other Champions League tie.
“We are really fine in our position, with our tools. We don’t want to think about what other clubs have,” the Liverpool boss said.
“We did it our way, and we want to do it our way again — and we will see what it leads to.
“Nine months ago we were already a good football team. Maybe a few of us dreamt of being in the final, but only because of the performances we put in in different games. That created a special spirit. That’s our biggest strength, for sure.”
Jordan Henderson — Klopp’s main man on the pitch, the engine of the team and the man who makes the team tick — while acknowledging the Reds are up against a formidable side in Real, preached the same positive message as his boss.
“We are prepared for anything and everything. Real are a fantastic team, but we can hurt Madrid if we perform to the levels we are capable of reaching,” the Liverpool captain said.
“Anything can happen in a Champions League final. It’s about us creating history. We’ve done well to get to this point, but we want to go one step forward.”
If Champions League trophies were won on positive thinking alone, Liverpool are certainties to beat Real Madrid. Both Klopp and Henderson looked quietly confident and relaxed ahead of the biggest match of their lives. Positivity has propelled them to the showdown in Kiev, and there is no desire to change now.
The passion and free-scoring spirit that has characterized the Reds’ march to the final has been matched in the stands. Anfield has been a daunting place for opposition teams, with the 3-0 win over Manchester City in the quarterfinals notable for its intense, hostile atmosphere. And Henderson has called on the Liverpool fans to recreate the passion of home and intimidate Real.
“As we have said before, the fans are a massive part of the club,” he said. “They have played a huge part in us getting this far in the competition. Hopefully, they can create an atmosphere similar to Anfield because it has made a big difference.”
Standing in the way of a sixth European Cup for Liverpool is Real, who again have saved their best performances for Europe while faltering at home.
Attempting to become the first side since 1976 to win three on the bounce, Zinedine Zidane’s side head into the final with a wealth of experience. Cristiano Ronaldo is the side’s spearhead, with Gareth Bale coming into form at just the right time and likely to start tonight.
Klopp is well aware of the defending champions’ combination of excellence and experience, but remains undaunted.
“We have unbelievable quality on our bench, but nobody has the same quality as Madrid,” the German said. “Whoever they have on the bench, they are really quality players.
“Experience is very important. A second before the game, Real will be more confident than we are, but it doesn’t matter because the game isn’t decided in that second. Real are really strong, but they’ve never played us.”
There seems to be an inner belief within the Liverpool side that is both seductive and refreshing. And that, as much as anything else, is why Klopp is a confident man.
“This club has it in its DNA to win big things. We are here because we are Liverpool,” he said.