Lots for punters to learn from Chelsea Galatasaray game as World Cup nears
An away goal in the Turk Telekom Arena is enough for Coral to make Chelsea 1/6 favourites to go through to the last eight of the Champions League. They are 2/5 on winning their round of 16 second leg with Galatasaray in 90 minutes at Stamford Bridge.
Keen observers of the first half of this tie may have noted several, some or none of the five things listed below that our football experts saw in Istanbul.
Uruguay goalie doesn’t cover himself in glory
England fans are right to be concerned about their World Cup group. The Three Lions are third-favourites to win (2/1) and/or qualify (8/15) from a pool that contains Italy, Uruguay and Costa Rica.
That second game against South American opposition, in particular, is a worry. Uruguay’s attack will feature Liverpool striker Luis Suarez, the leading Premier League scorer and odds-on 1/6 favourite to win the English top-flight Golden Boot, and reported £50m PSG signing Edinson Cavani.
Keeping this predatory pair out will be a tough challenge, but the Galatasaray game had something of a silver lining for England. La Celeste number one Fernando Muslera played in goal against Chelsea and was left horribly exposed.
Muslera, who has over 50 caps for Uruguay, started badly when his poor kick fell straight to Willian. The Gala custodian then recovered well to stop the Blues’ Brazilian attacker from chipping him.
A suicidal high defensive line from the hosts left him vulnerable, but Muslera must also take his share of the blame for conceding the opener. Having committed to trying to stop Cesar Azpilicueta’s cross, he came off his line and did not get there.
Three Lions supporters must now understand Oscar Tabarez’s team offer plenty going forward but, Diego Godin apart, their back five is defensively suspect.
Mancini makes tactical blunder, but turns things around
Playing 4-4-2 from the start left Galatasaray hideously open. Roberto Mancini, a goal down inside 10 minutes, realised the folly of setting up this way and reacted accordingly.
Chelsea were subsequently denied space in midfield when former City coach Mancini made a change after half an hour, hauling off Bosnia-Herzegovina international Izet Hajrovic in favour of shoring things up.
Gala fans that are travelling to the second leg in March will hope their Italian manager has learned a valuable lesson from this – do not play in the hands of Jose Mourinho.
That match will be something of a tactical conundrum for the Turks, as they must score at Stamford Bridge or bow out of the Champions League.
Torres on target, yet Drogba still outshines Spaniard
Chelsea striker Fernando Torres had the easiest job in the world, tapping in compatriot Azpilicueta’s cross to make it 1-0. Despite becoming the Blues’ top-scorer in Europe this term, he is still in the shadow of former teammate Didier Drogba.
Now 35, Ivory Coast captain Drogba facing his old club is the major subplot to this two-legged tie. Guaranteed a glorious reception when he returns to the Bridge, he was heavily involved in Galatasaray’s best chance before they equalised.
Drogba rose highest to knock down a corner from another Mourinho disciple Wesley Sneijder towards Gala skipper Selcuk Inan. The midfielder rattled the post from point-blank range.
For the part he played in this, Drogba gave ‘The Special One’ a timely reminder of what he used to have at Chelsea. Will he score himself back the Bridge?
Blues skipper Terry at fault for equaliser
John Terry has been a stand-out performer in defence for Chelsea this season. Mourinho’s comeback has reinvigorated him and the media talked up a return to the international fold with England before Roy Hodgson nixed those rumours.
Terry allowed another Sneijder corner through to Cameroon defender Aurelien Chedjou, who duly fired into the roof of the net to bring Galatasaray level on the night and back into it. To all intents and purposes, this goal did not change the balance of this tie much.
Gala must still score at Stamford Bridge. They are 6/4 to net once and 4/1 to get two goals or more. To all those pundits and commentators who talked up Terry still having what it takes to deliver on the big stage, his error here was compelling evidence it is best if Hodgson keeps him in international retirement.
Sneijder comes back to bite ‘The Special One’
Dutch playmaker Sneijder, who won the Champions League under Mourinho at Inter Milan, put the deliveries in for Galatasaray’s big moments in this match.
Eyebrows were raised moments after kick-off when Mancini had him nominally playing wide on the left, but he showed that he still belongs in elite company.
Sneijder is now one of the Netherlands’ most senior players. Clockwork Orange national coach Louis van Gaal has selected him ahead of long-time rival for the attacking midfield slot Rafael van der Vaart for their latest World Cup warm-up friendly.
At the tournament finals in Brazil, the Netherlands have a tough draw. Group B contains reigning world champions Spain and Chile, who were excellent against England last November.
Sneijder is still key to Dutch hopes and his club form was encouraging against Chelsea, so back them at 9/4 to top this pool.