Galatasaray v Chelsea - Champions League Round of 16 Previews

Chelsea players warned as tough UEFA Champions League trip to Galatasaray awaits

Leave a comment

LONDON — The biggest city in Turkey and sitting in both Europe and Asia, Istanbul is one of world soccer’s greatest meccas. Passionate fans, massive clubs and fascinating cultures all clash on the banks of the Bosphorus.

On Wednesday Chelsea travel to the Al Sami Yen Stadium to face Turkish giants Galatasaray in the last 16 of the UEFA Champions League as a hostile atmosphere awaits. Over 50,000 fanatical supporters will pack the recently constructed stadium that sits just outside the heart of Istanbul, with the Blues in for a real tough time.

Manager Jose Mourinho knows that more than most, as last season he took Real Madrid to Istanbul and came home with nothing. Real managed to turn the tie around at home in the second leg, but a trip to face Galatasaray isn’t something the ‘Special One’ is relishing.

“Last season my team [Real Madrid] was a team ready to win the Champions League and we were in trouble against them,” Mourinho said. “We won in Madrid but lost in Istanbul and we were in trouble. The crowd is difficult too. The 3,000 Everton fans who were at Chelsea on Saturday… they have 60,000 like this. The atmosphere is really strong, we have a difficult match to play.”

(MORE:Mourinho lauds Chelsea’s defensive solidity, as title charge will come from the back)

Aside from the intense atmosphere, Mourinho also pointed out the extremely talented squad Galatasaray manger Robeerto Mancini has at his disposal.

“They have a good team, a very experienced team,” Mourinho said. “All of their players have had a long-run in the high level of the Champions League and they have got wins. They have big players, Wesley Sneijeder, Dider Drogba and after that they have very experienced players like Emmanule Eboue and Felipe Melo, they are people that have played at some of the best clubs in the world. The Turkish guys are the best players they have, Yilmaz, Altintop, Inan.”

With Mourinho dishing out plenty of respect to Chelsea’s Turkish opponents, there is one man he will be excited yet focused to face once again. Galatasaray striker Didier Drogba was Mourinho’s main man during his first spell in charge at Chelsea, with the Ivorian striker spearheading many of the Blues’ title charges and left the West London club in 2012 after scoring the winning penalty kick in the UEFA Champions League final.

(MORE: Report – Drogba linked with MLS move, as two teams battle for his signature)

There is a banner hanging at one end of Chelsea’s Stamford Bridge stadium which reads, “Drogba, Chelsea legend.” Mourinho doesn’t argue with that, but insists he and his players must be professional when facing one of Chelsea’s greatest ever strikers.

“I played against him already. When I was at Inter we played Chelsea and when I was at Real last season we played against Galatasaray,” Mourinho said. “It’s a strange feeling, we know him well. During the game from us there will no friends, before the game we will be big friends and we have big respect for a real legend of this club and after the game the same. But during the game, we have a job to do.”

Many believe Mourinho’s main reason for heading back to Stamford Bridge is to build a team capable of winning the Champions League year after year, as the Portuguese boss aims to lift the one trophy which alluded him during his first spell in charge of the Blues. Mourinho has won the UCL with FC Porto and Inter Milan, but now with Chelsea he’s aiming to clinch Europe’s elite title for a third time.

But before dreaming about titles, his side must negotiate this tricky test against a side that’s already beaten Juventus at home this season in the UCL. Mourinho believes this last 16 matchup will go right to the wire.

“I think this is a tie that will go to the end. It will go  right to the end.”

MLS Cup Playoffs: FC Dallas 2-2 (3-5 agg.) Portland Timbers

Fanendo Adi, Portland Timbers FC
Leave a comment

The game in 100 words (or less): The Portland Timbers are headed to their first MLS Cup in club history after defeating FC Dallas, 5-3 on aggregate, in the Western Conference finals (2-2 draw in the second leg). Fanendo Adi scored in Sunday’s second leg, giving Caleb Porter’s side a 4-1 aggregate lead before Ryan Hollingshead and Blas Perez scored inside the last 25 minutes to give Oscar Pareja’s bunch a late lifeline, but Lucas Melano’s spectacular tap-in sealed the Timbers’ trip to MLS Cup. The third seed heading into the playoffs, Portland bounced Sporting Kansas City in an epic penalty shootout in the knockout round and outlasted the Vancouver Whitecaps in the conference semifinals before knocking off the West’s top seed over two legs to advance to MLS Cup 2015. No matter who advances from the East finals later on Sunday, Portland will play away in MLS Cup, to either the New York Red Bulls or Columbus Crew SC.

[ MORE: Previewing the MLS weekend ]

Three Four moments that mattered

54′ — Adi fires past Gonzalez to make if 4-1 — Oscar Pareja elected to go with Walker Zimmerman at center back on Sunday, dropping regular starter Zach Loyd to the bench. On the game’s opening goal, it was Zimmerman who wound up on the ground as Adi received the ball, turned and fired a massive away goal past Jesse Gonzalez.

68′ — Diaz’s magical ball curled home by Hollingshead — Mauro Diaz is a wonderful magician capable of playing the kill through ball from anywhere on the field — this we’ve known for quite some time. His chipped through ball to set up Hollingshead’s goal was extraordinarily brilliant, even for him.

73′ — Perez heads home the free kick to pull within one — Would you be surprised to hear that it was Diaz who set up FCD’s second goal? His free kick was Perez-finding missile and found the head of the Panamanian striker at the top of the six-yard box, where 34-year-old headed home with ease.

90+5′ — Melano rounds Gonzalez, seals MLS Cup berth — Poor Jesse Gonzalez. Absolutely schooled and posterized by Lucas Melano. What a way to sew up a place in the championship final.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverageStandings | Stats | Schedule ]

Man of the match: Mauro Diaz

Goalscorers: Adi (54′), Hollingshead (68′), Perez (73′), Melano (90+5′)

La Liga & Serie A: Real Madrid bounce back; Juventus on the charge

Gareth Bale, Real Madrid CF
Leave a comment

A roundup of all of Sunday’s action in Spain and Italy’s top flights:

Eibar 0-2 Real Madrid

Real Madrid bounced back from back-to-back La Liga defeats with a 2-0 victory away to Eibar on Sunday. Gareth Bale (below video) and Cristiano Ronaldo (penalty kick) provided the goals to keep Rafa Benitez‘s bunch (27 points) third in the league, two points behind Atletico Madrid and six behind leaders Barcelona.

Elsewhere in La Liga

Getafe 2-0 Villarreal
Rayo Vallecano 0-3 Athletic Bilbao
Sevilla 1-0 Valencia

[ MORE: Saturday’s La Liga roundup ]

Roma 0-2 Atalanta

Losing at home to sides currently in a relegation battle — rarely a good idea, especially if you fancy yourselves title challengers, but that didn’t stop Roma from doing just that on Sunday. Alejandro Gomez and German Denis scored the goals to knock off a 10-man Roma side (Maicon – 81st minute) and keep Rudi Garcia’s bunch (27 points) from gaining ground on any of the three teams currently ahead of them — Inter Milan, Napoli and Fiorentina — all of whom play on Monday.

AC Milan 4-1 Sampdoria

M’Baye Niang scored twice, while Giacomo Bonaventura and Luiz Adriano (below video) added single tallies for AC Milan (23 points) to keep pace with the top-five pack in Serie A. After 14 rounds of games, the Rossoneri sit sixth, a point outside fifth (UEFA Europa League) and five points out of third (UEFA Champions League).

Palermo 0-3 Juventus

Don’t look now, but here come Juventus. Sunday’s 3-0 triumph over Palermo makes it four straight wins in the league for Massimiliano Allegri’s side — a run that pushes them all the way up to fifth in the league (24 points), just six points off the pace of leaders Inter, who play on Monday. Mario Mandzukic (below video), Stefano Sturaro and Simone Zaza scored the goals for the world’s most frightening fifth-place team.

Elsewhere in Serie A

Torino 2-0 Bologna
Chievo 2-3 Udinese
Frosinone 3-2 Hellas Verona
Genoa 1-2 Carpi
Empoli 1-0 Lazio

Monday’s Serie A schedule

Sassuolo vs. Fiorentina (1 p.m. ET)
Napoli vs. Inter Milan (3 p.m. ET)

Arsenal’s injury crisis — add Sanchez, Cazorla, Koscielny to the list

Alexis Sanchez, Arsenal FC
Leave a comment

From title challengers to just hoping to hold on to a top-four place while Arsene Wenger is forced to play reserves and academy players because half of his star players are currently out injured — the annual story of Arsenal.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

Oct. 27, when Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain both went down with injuries in the same game, marked the unofficial start of Arsenal’s 2015-16 injury crisis, but things didn’t really get going full bore until the last seven days, when five more players — four of them full-time starters — picked up injuries that will keep them out of action for anywhere between three weeks and three months.

Added to the list last weekend: Francis Coquelin (knee – three months minimum), Mikel Arteta (calf – three weeks)

Added to the list on Sunday: Alexis Sanchez (hamstring – MORE DETAILS), Santi Cazorla (knee), Laurent Koscielny (hip)

Following Sunday’s 1-1 draw with Norwich City, Wenger said Koscielny “could not walk” due to the hip spasm that forced him out of the game after just 11 minutes. He also divulged that Cazorla, who could not be subbed off because Wenger had already used all three subs late on, played the second half “on one leg.” Sanchez came into Sunday injured after picking up a hamstring injury in Arsenal’s UEFA Champions League victory over Dinamo Zagreb on Tuesday.

[ MORE: Sunday’s PL roundup — Chelsea, Arsenal, Spurs all draw ]

Arsenal fans were up in arms during the summer transfer window — let’s be honest, the following is true of every transfer window the last five years — crying out, “We must buy, we must buy.” Have a look at Arsenal’s complete injury list at the moment, and try to say, “They didn’t need to buy in the summer.”

In chronological order: Danny Welbeck (knee – early 2016 return), Tomas Rosicky (knee – Christmas time return), Jack Wilshere (leg – Christmas time return), Theo Walcott (calf – December return), Mikel Arteta (calf – three weeks), Francis Coquelin (knee – three months minimum), Laurent Koscielny (hip – to be assessed), Alexis Sanchez (hamstring – to be assessed), Santi Cazorla (knee – to be assessed)

WATCH: PL Download — Crystal Palace: South London and Proud

1 Comment

Check out the latest episode of Premier League Download, a look inside Crystal Palace and the club’s passionate supporters.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

Win, lose or draw it’s always a party for the fans of Crystal Palace and Roger Bennett travels to Selhurst Park to learn how the beloved team went from Championship strugglers to a Premier League success story.

[ WATCH: Past episodes of PL Download ]