The Champions League is back with a home game against old foes, the Turkish side Galatasaray. It’s hard to find fans of a single English club who have anything nice to say about their experience with Galatasaray and the Gooners are no exception. There were off-the-pitch troubles in Copenhagen 14 years ago that some of the Gooners still remember. On that night, Arsenal played the UEFA Cup Final against Galatasaray and lost on penalties 4:1 after 120 minutes without goals. Ray Parlour converted his penalty, Patrick Vieira and Davor Šuker hit the bar and the post while the Turkish penalty-takers had a perfect shoot-out. Galatasaray won the UEFA Cup which remains the biggest success in the history of Turkish clubs to date.
Arsenal didn’t play against Galatasaray again until the Emirates Cup 2013. It was a bit of a controversial decision from Arsenal to invite Galatasaray as our previous encounter with the Turkish side wasn’t exactly a friendly one. We took the lead but our old menace Didier Drogba scored a brace in the second half to seal the victory for Galatasaray.
Galatasaray still have some experienced players in their roster. After Drogba left them to return to Chelsea, Wesley Sneijder is the biggest player at Cesare Prandelli’s disposal. The Dutchman – who was one of the best players in the world four years ago – has been in decline for years but still has a powerful right foot that can produce either a screamer from outside the box or a fantastic pass to a team-mate, as the situation demands.
And the most dangerous of his team-mates might be Burak Yilmaz. The Turkish international striker was on the radar of several European giants and was even connected with Arsenal. He is capable of scoring all sorts of goals so he has to be treated with caution. Fernando Muslera is between the sticks. The Uruguayan is a very good goalkeeper, especially at penalties, and can frustrate opponents’ attackers with excellent saves. Blerim Dzemaili has already faced Arsenal in the Champions’ League – he played for Napoli last term – as well as Goran Pandev.
In the first match Galatasaray managed only to draw against Anderlecht, arguably the weakest side in the group. The Turkish side need to make up for those spilled points at home so they’ll come to London in order to do that. After tomorrow’s match, they’ll have back-to-back games against Borussia Dortmund and it’s going to be very hard for Galatasaray to get points against the Germans, especially if Klopp’s side repeat the same display they had given against us.
From our point of view, we need a victory tomorrow. Then we’ll have back-to-back matches against Anderlecht and with the six points that we should get from those, our progress to First Knockout Stage should be secured. It is very important for us to secure progress before the last group match that will take place in Istanbul. It’s very hard to take points at the Türk Telecom Arena – Juventus were knocked out in hardly regular conditions last season in the very last match of the group stage. Now, imagine that meme of Gary Cole and say with me: “To qualify for the next stage before the last game in Istanbul – that would be great.”
Now, first things first. We must beat Galatasaray but who is going to do that?
Wojciech Szczesny should start in goal. We are yet to see the real Woj, who pulls amazing saves for fun, this season; hopefully he will find his form tomorrow.
Hector Bellerin might get another start due to Laurent Koscielny’s injury problems. The young Spaniard gave a solid performance against Borussia Dortmund and an excellent one against Southampton so another chance for him to show his talent wouldn’t be a bad idea.
Calum Chambers will probably start next to Per Mertesacker in the heart of our defence. Chambers was excellent as our right full-back against Spuds but now he’ll have to move to the middle. Mertesacker will wear the armband in the absence of Mikel Arteta.
Kieran Gibbs is a safe bet for the left side of the defence.
Mathieu Flamini made a fatal mistake against Spuds and hasn’t been on the same level as the last term but might get a chance to start due to the injury crisis we have in midfield.
Tomas Rosicky was linked with Galatasaray in the past but tomorrow he should be a threat to their goal. The Czech didn’t perform well against Southampton but he can always produce a magical moment.
Mesut Özil should get his favourite place down the middle. He is the best No.10 in the world. Period.
Santi Cazorla might start on the left wing with a license to roam inside. A goal from Santi wouldn’t be a bad thing, eh?
Alexis Sanchez will start down the right flank. His quality can’t be replaced.
Danny Welbeck should score his first goal at the Emirates. He deserves it with his work-rate.
It’s not going to be an easy game, especially because some of our players will be thinking about Chelsea. So, I’d say we’ll make a narrow 2:1 victory with goals from Santi and Welbeck with Yilmaz the goal-scorer for the visitors.
Bellerin Mertesacker (c) Chambers Gibbs
Alexis Özil Rosicky Cazorla
Arsenal 2 v 1 Galatasaray