Preview: Galatasaray vs. Barcelona

Preview: Galatasaray vs. Barcelona

Having been held to a 0-0 draw in front of their own fans in the first leg of their last-16 tie, Barcelona will endeavour to advance to the Europa League quarter-finals when Galatasaray welcome them to Turkey for the second leg.

Xavi’s side enter the contest having hit Osasuna for four without reply in La Liga, while Domenec Torrent’s men ran out 2-1 winners against Besiktas.

Returning to Catalonia after his wholly successful spell as Pep Guardiola’s assistant at Camp Nou, Galatasaray boss Domenec Torrent witnessed his side produce a marvellous defensive display to claim a memorable draw and leave it all to play for in the second leg.

A raft of changes from Xavi did not pay off – although Memphis Depay went close a couple of times only to be thwarted by Barcelona loanee Inaki Pena – and Galatasaray’s Kerem Akturkoglu came pretty close to winning it for his side on the day.

After catching the eye on the Camp Nou turf, Turkish starlet Akturkoglu was at the double for his side as Galatasaray warmed up for the second leg with a 2-1 Super Lig success over Besiktas, as Torrent seeks to instil a sense of resilience into the faltering giants.

Galatasaray head into Thursday’s game having lost just one of their last seven in all competitions after a dismal streak of defeats over the winter, and they have only failed to score in one of their last 16 home games. Furthermore, not since 2008 have the hosts been shut out on their own turf in the Europa League.

The 1999-2000 UEFA Cup winners have never made it to the quarter-finals of the Europa League in its current format, but having already seen off Marseille and Lazio on home soil in this season’s tournament – staying unbeaten in the process – Torrent’s side can dare to dream.

Witnessing on-loan goalkeeper Pena keep his parent club at bay must have been a painful watch for Xavi on the sidelines, but Barcelona demonstrated no such profligacy when Osasuna paid a visit to Camp Nou for Sunday’s top-flight battle.

A 27-minute first-half flurry saw Ferran Torres bag a brace and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang continue his fast start to life in Catalonia with his fifth La Liga goal of the season, and substitute Riqui Puig would bag only his second Blaugrana goal 15 minutes from time.

The Blaugrana’s decision to take a punt on former midfield maestro is certainly paying dividends, with the visitors winning five of their last six and now unbeaten in 10 in all competitions, but El Clasico is looming, and Xavi is under pressure to get his XI right this time around.

Barca head into the second leg having only conceded one goal in their last four games across all tournaments – as well as winning each of their last three away from home – and not since 2004 have the La Liga giants been dumped out at this stage of Europe’s second-tier competition.

Barcelona’s most recent trip to Galatasaray ended in a 2-0 win during the 2002-03 Champions League group stage, with Xavi playing 75 minutes of that contest, and it would be some story if Torrent’s side were to dash the Catalans’ dreams of European success in front of their ardent fanbase.

Galatasaray Europa League form:
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Galatasaray form (all competitions):
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Barcelona Europa League form:
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Barcelona form (all competitions):
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We say: Galatasaray 1-2 Barcelona (Barcelona win 2-1 on aggregate)
Barcelona could be in for a rough ride against Galatasaray on the unforgiving Nef Stadium turf, with the hosts enjoying the new manager bounce under Torrent and possessing quite the difference-maker in Akturkoglu.

A distinct lack of ruthlessness bedevilled the Catalans in the first leg, but with Xavi able to call upon so many talented attacking options, La Blaugrana will expect to break down a beleaguered Galatasaray defence and advance to the last eight.

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