Galatasaray AŞ have their issues as they prepare to face Juventus in their final UEFA Champions League Group B game, with Fatih Terim's shadow hanging over new coach Roberto Mancini.
On Tuesday, it took the penalty shoot-out heroics of goalkeeper Ufuk Ceylan to secure Galatasaray a Turkish Cup win at second-division Gaziantep BB. Mancini had fielded a second-string side for the match, but after the victory fans voiced frustration at what they saw as a below-par performance, even chanting Terim's name. The 60-year-old stepped aside to focus on his job as Turkey coach after the 6-1 home defeat by Real Madrid CF on matchday one, with Mancini yet to replace him in supporters' affections.
Last season, Galatasaray raised the bar by reaching the UEFA Champions League quarter-finals, overcoming FC Schalke 04 with a 3-2 away win in the round of 16. Expectations are always high among the fans and the onus was on Cimbom to match that achievement this time around. However, their opening-day loss to Madrid took the wind out of their sails in no uncertain terms. Yet while they earned a valuable 2-2 draw in Turin in Mancini's first game in charge and proceeded to beat FC København 3-1, subsequent reverses in Copenhagen and Madrid make the Juventus rematch a must-win game.
Getting that victory, however, may demand some decisive intervention from the coach, who – like his predecessor – has struggled to settle on a consistent lineup this term. Defence is a particular cause for concern: they have the third-leakiest rearguard in the group stage. Supporters have pointed to shaky positioning and inadequate communication. Even Mancini said recently: "They need to work on defence three times a day."
Up front, there is also a need for key players to find some composure. Last season's top scorer Burak Yılmaz has not flourished when placed on the left wing by Mancini, who must now decide who should be Didier Drogba's regular partner – effectively a straight either/or between Burak and this European campaign's leading marksman, Umut Bulut. That choice may hinge upon which of the two forwards' key attributes is more useful against Juventus: Burak's ability to exploit space or Umut's runs and flicks.
Then there is the question of how to get the best out of Wesley Sneijder. Mancini believes in the Dutchman, but finding a spot for him may also involve carving out a new role for Selçuk İnan, whose ability to link up with Burak has been such an important feature of Galatasaray's game.
Perhaps more important still is that Mancini gets his side looking like a team. On-field spats between players in recent weeks have fuelled gossip about friction between Galatasaray's overseas players and their Turkish counterparts.
All is not lost: the expected return of experienced Uruguay goalkeeper Fernando Muslera for the Juventus match could help anchor Galatasaray. And however uncertain things look now, a win on Tuesday – and safe passage to the round of 16 – would go a long way to solving all of Mancini's problems.
The opinions expressed here are the writer's own and not those of UEFA.
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