Can Galatasaray Spring Champions League Surprise?

It has been just over 18 years since Galatasaray beat Arsenal on penalties to claim the UEFA Cup, their one and only European triumph. Since then, they have twice appeared in the quarter-finals of the Champions League, but have not gone beyond the group stage of Europe’s elite competition since 2014 when they fell to Chelsea in the round of 16.

So, can Galatasaray make an impact on the competition this season? Or will it be another campaign of disappointment?

There was some restrained optimism amongst Galatasaray fans when the draw for this year’s group stages was made. The Turkish side were pitted in Group D alongside Lokomotiv Moscow, Porto and Schalke, still a tough selection but one that gives hope of a top-two finish.

Lokomotiv Moscow were the weakest team in a pot that also contained Real Madrid, Atletico Madrid, Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Manchester City, Juventus and Paris Saint-Germain, while Porto were drawn from a pot featuring Borussia Dortmund, Manchester United, Napoli, Tottenham and Roma. And by coming up against Schalke in the round robin stage, Cimbom avoided last season’s runners-up Liverpool.

So with a relatively easy group to contend with, what does that mean in terms of the team’s chances of progression? A brief analysis of the betting markets might give us a clue. The Lions were priced at 8/1 to qualify for the knockout stages before the group stage matches commenced. That ranked them as the underdogs in Group D with Lokomotiv Moscow, Porto and Schalke all available at shorter prices.

This does not bode well for Galatasaray’s chances but at least you will get a good price if you decide to back them to qualify. But when you bet on Champions League matches, you should bear in mind that Galatasaray’s recent record in the competition hasn’t been great, they have won just one of their last seven at home and none of their last 11 away. What’s more, they exited the Europa League at the second qualifying stage last term after falling to Swedish side Östersunds FK. This is the reason why the bookies just don’t fancy them in the competition.

fb2” (CC BY 2.0) by tekinim

However, they won their first league title in three years last season, gaining 24 points on their 2015/16 tally and 11 points on their total from 2016/17. Much of that improvement can be put down to Coach Fatih Terim who has won 75% of his games in charge since returning to the club last year. Bearing in mind he was the man in charge of their 1999/00 UEFA Cup triumph and also the last boss to guide them to a Champions League quarterfinal, the price for qualification to the knockout stage suddenly looks much more tempting.

This is Terim’s fourth spell in charge of the club and he will keen to add to the 14 trophies that he has already accumulated in Istanbul.  During a break from the club between 2005 and 2008, he led the Turkish national team to the semi-finals of the 2008 UEFA European Championship, their best ever performance in the competition.