Winner take all

Posted by Mina Rzouki

It’s do or die, the moment to step up and grab the opportunity afforded to them. Tuesday night Galatasaray host Juventus in the final group game of the Champions League and it’s vital the Italians avoid defeat, but Antonio Conte wants more than the one point needed to secure qualification for the knockout stage. The manager and the Old Lady want a victory on Turkish soil.

It will be difficult, but Roberto Mancini’s side are not experiencing the best of times. They lost to Fenerbahce 2-0 in their derby last month, struggling to create many opportunities from open play, they were humiliated by Real Madrid and last Tuesday, the fans began to chant former manager Fatih Terim’s name as the Istanbul side faced and second division side Gaziantep.

Yes, Gala finally achieved victory, but the performance was far from what one would expect of a side coached by a former Serie A and Premier League winner even if the stars were not playing.

-Palmer: Juve-Gala match of the day

Boasting some of the world’s best footballing talent, we have come to realise that all that glitters is not gold. Mancini has struggled to create a balanced side. His attempts to tinker with players’ positioning, with the formation and with striking partnerships has caused problems and robbed the side of their fluency.

Yet while the likes of Burak Yilmaz attempt to cope with the change of position and get to grips with the new style of play, the real problems lie in defence.

Slow to react, easily dragged out of position and with a centre-back pairing that European sides would enjoy overwhelming, Galatasaray has shipped more goals than Mancini would care to understand. Prioritising the problems in his defence, he has spent working with his players and improving their understanding of each other’s movements at the back and yet the same errors keep occurring.

In hopes of resolving the issue with the porous defence, it seems the Turks may well opt to field a three-man back line on Tuesday evening, almost mirroring Conte's formation. The hope is that they will better control the midfield and with Wesley Sneijder likely to play behind Didier Drogba and Yilmaz, they want their attacking prowess to push Juventus back and disturb their ability to play the ball out from the back.

Gala's midfield will combine the defensive and tenacious ability of Felipe Melo with the creativity of Selcuk Inan, a player who challenged opponents in last year’s competition and works exceptionally well with Yilmaz ahead of him. Emmanuel Eboue will push farther forward and act as a wing-back, and it’s presumed his task will be to restrict Juve’s penetrative ability in the wide areas.

Sadly for the Italians, there will be no Andrea Pirlo available to ping balls forward. With the flanks effectively patrolled, the Gala hope is they will limit the options available to the Juve forwards and neutralise their threat.

With the game being played in the Turk Telekom Arena, the atmosphere will be tense and the home fans will do their utmost to stand behind their team. As for the Gala squad, the likes of Felipe Melo and Co. are confident of making an impression. They believe in their strengths and feel their situation will give them the upper hand, but club president Unal Aysal is more realistic, conceding that “It won’t be the end of the world” if his side lose.

As for the Old Lady -- who were held 2-2 by Gala in the reverse fixture in October -- she will almost certainly deploy her usual formation, one Conte has described as being the more attacking shape. With Stephan Lichtsteiner back to reprise his role on the right, birthday boy Kwadwo Asamoah will take to the left. Up front, it’s highly likely the coach will opt for the Carlos Tevez-Fernando Llorente partnership while the defence will be made up of the usual suspects.

A clean sheet is of the utmost importance, but Juventus need to attack and adopt a proactive mentality. Galatasaray’s strengths lie in attack, their weaknesses in defence. Juve would do well to expose their opponents’ fragilities and limit their ability to demonstrate their strengths. They are only one point from qualification -- Juve have to give it their all.


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