Eden Hazard

UEFA Champions League Preview: Galatasaray tasked with bringing down Chelsea’s fortress

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Take three factoids, stare at them long enough, and you can talk yourself into a Galatasaray win on Tuesday. That very well might happen, but if it does, it won’t be because Aston Villa upset Chelsea on Saturday. It won’t be because the Blues were pulled back in Istanbul three weeks ago, nor will be because of the 12-match unbeaten run Gala brings into the team’s second leg. If Chelsea are bounced out of UEFA Champions League in the Round of 16, it will be because they gave an unexpectedly poor performance.

Which, of course, occasionally happens in soccer, and with Roberto Mancini’s team possessing talents like former Blue Didier Drogba and fellow Champions League-winner Wesley Sniejder, the Turkish champions are capable of taking advantage of any Chelsea mistakes. But under José Mourinho, mistakes at Stamford Bridge have almost been non-existent. Now in his second stint at the club, Mourinho has still yet to lose a game at home in the Premier League, and while that record didn’t prevent Switzerland’s FC Basel from claiming three points at the Bridge in group stage, it does speak to the rare feat Galatasaray hopes to accomplish on Tuesday.

(REVIEW: Chelsea fails to kill off Galatasaray as home side earns a 1-1 draw)

“[W]e are here and we know it will be really difficult because Chelsea are one of the best teams in Europe,” Gala head coach Roberto Mancini said on Monday. “But in football you never say never. Anything can happen if you believe in yourself.”

That belief will have to find a way through the best defense in England. Chelsea is allowing only 10.3 shots per game, a rate that’s led to only 23 goals allowed through 30 rounds. The back four of Branislav Ivanovic, Gary Cahill, John Terry, and César Azpilicueta has become England’s best, one that’s maintained its numbers in a league where multiple clubs can match the firepower of Drogba, Sneijder, and Burak Yilmaz. If they can continue to make goalkeeper Petr Cech’s job an easy one, Chelsea’s away goal will take them into the quarterfinals.

That scenario assumes Mourinho’s team can be kept off the scoresheet, something Gala’s unlikely to do. Saturday’s match in Birmingham represented the first time Chelsea had been shutout in five games – only the third time they’ve been blanked in 17. In the four games leading up to their visit to Villa Park, Chelsea had scored nine times. Only one team (West Ham) has kept Chelsea of the scoresheet at Stamford Bridge since Mourinho’s return.

Though they held Chelsea to one goal in the first leg, it’s unclear how Galatasaray can stop Eden Hazard if the Belgian is at his best. Combed with Willian and either Oscar or Andre Schürrle, the Blues attacker are poised to tempt the card-prone Felipe Melo in Gala’s defensive midfield. With Fernando Muslera alternating the spectacular with the inexplicable in goal, Galatasaray are unlikely to keep a clean sheet in London.

(MORE,  UEFA Champions League Preview: Youth on display for Real Madrid, up five against Schalke)

All of which is a long way to say the obvious: Chelsea are favorites on Tuesday. You really didn’t need 445 words to detail why. They are one of the most well-funded, talented teams in the world. The broad, reductive strokes we usually see describe a match between England and Turkey’s best happen to be accurate in this case. At home against one of Turkey’s best, Chelsea should be able to preserve the slight advantage they took out of Istanbul.

That the advantage is only slight — that Chelsea has left itself within reach of luck, misfortune, mistake, or variance — gives the Turkish champions reason to hope.

“If you look at the (first leg’s) result – 1-1 – and if you look at the game, one team was better in the first half, another was better in the second,” Mourinho explained. “It’s the kind of match that could go to the wire. I very much doubt the game will be decided by half-time.”

Miss of the season candidate as Correa whiffs for Sampdoria

GENOA, ITALY - SEPTEMBER 23:  Jaoquin Correa of UC Sampdoria disappointed during the Serie A match between UC Sampdoria and AS Roma at Stadio Luigi Ferraris on September 23, 2015 in Genoa, Italy.  (Photo by Pier Marco Tacca/Getty Images)
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21-year-old Joaquin Correa may be young and inexperienced, but he may have grown today.

Painful growth.

The young Sampdoria attacker will not want to watch the highlights of today’s 1-1 draw with Inter Milan in Serie A play knowing he could have given his side all three points.

Could have, had he – you know – hit an open goal from less than three yards out. Spoiler alert: he didn’t.

Correa rounds Inter goalkeeper Samir Handanovic thanks to a fruitful rebound after his initial shot was smothered, but as he turned to face the wide open net, he scuffed his shot and it trickled embarrassingly wide.

Not much more to say about this one than try to put it behind you, Joaquin. It’s an ugly one.

Watch Live: Swansea City vs. Tottenham Hotspur (Lineups & Live Stream)

MONACO - OCTOBER 01:  Harry Kane of Tottenham Hotspur gestures during the UEFA Europa League group J match between AS Monaco FC and Tottenham Hotspur FC at Stade Louis II on October 1, 2015 in Monaco, Monaco.  (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)
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Tottenham can go third in the table with a road win today at one of the toughest places to play in the Premier League at the moment as they visit the Liberty Stadium to take on Swansea City at 11 a.m. ET live online at NBC Sports Live Extra.

Spurs are coming off a massive win over Manchester City last weekend – their third straight victory in league play – but will be without bright new signing Hueng-min Son for the forseeable future after he suffered a foot injury in the victory. Spurs then managed a stout 1-1 draw with Monaco in Europa League play.

They are also without Danny Rose from an injury in that midweek meeting and Nabil Bentalib misses his fourth straight match due to injury, but Deli Alli is fit while Moussa Dembele makes the bench. Erik Lamela is in the starting lineup as he finds himself in fine form the last few weeks.

WATCH LIVE: Swansea City vs. Tottenham Hotspur live online at NBC Sports Live Extra

Swansea, meanwhile, have a fully fit squad eight matches into the Premier League season, and they would move into the top half of the table with a win.

Bafetimbi Gomis starts up front with four goals on the season, but he has not scored in his last three appearances, and conversely the Swans have picked up just one point over that span.


Swansea City: Fabianski, Rangel, Fernandez, Williams, Taylor, Ki, Shelvey, Ayew, Sigurdsson, Montero, Gomis.
Nordfeldt, Tabanou, Bartley, Cork, Barrow, Routledge, Eder.

Tottenham: Lloris, Walker, Alderweireld, Vertonghen, Davies; Alli, Dier; Chadli, Eriksen, Lamela; Kane.
Vorm, Trippier, Wimmer, Carroll, Dembele, Townsend, Clinton.