With their Matchday 5 game against Juventus FC being postponed until this week, Galatasaray SK have been given a stay of execution in the UEFA Champions League.
However, with just two matches left to propel themselves off the foot of the Group D table and towards the last 16, the Turkish club's veteran defender Frank de Boer knows that his side have it all to do as they seek back-to-back victories against Juventus and Real Sociedad de Fútbol.
"Of course, there are high expectations here and no one is pleased to be at the bottom but there is still hope," the Dutch international told uefa.com. "
If we can win our last two games, we can still reach the knockout phase. We played well in Italy when we faced Juventus, even though we lost narrowly. We know it will be difficult to qualify but it is not impossible."
With Turkey being rocked by the bomb blasts that hit Istanbul in recent weeks, Galatasaray will be playing their home game against Juventus in Dortmund, and De Boer maintained that circumstances might favour his side. "Juventus have already qualified for the knockout stages, so the match will not be as important to them as it will be to us," he said. "I thought we were unlucky not to get a point in Turin and I am sure we can cause them problems."
Should they beat Juventus, Galatasaray will move to within two points of Real Sociedad and will be able to go for broke on Matchday 6 when they travel to Spain to take on Raynald Denoueix's team. De Boer accepted that winning in San Sebastian might be a hard task, but insisted it was achievable. "The Sociedad match will be harder because it is in Spain but it was only 2-1 in the first game, so I would say there is little to choose between the two sides," he said.
De Boer came to Istanbul last summer to add experience to Galatasaray's squad, and he believes that - in domestic terms at least - the team have improved since his arrival. "We have made a solid start to the campaign but we are still six points behind Besiktas [JK], so we have room for improvement," he said. "The feeling at the club is that we are moving in the right direction but we can get better."
However, events in recent weeks have led De Boer to focus more on his homeland, as the Netherlands romped into the finals of UEFA EURO 2004™ with a 6-0 demolition of Scotland in a play-off game in Amsterdam. A 1-0 defeat in Glasgow had put Dutch dreams of atoning for their failure to reach the 2002 FIFA World Cup finals in doubt, but De Boer was thrilled to book his side's tickets to Portugal.
"It was a weight off everybody's shoulders," he said. "We could not forget our failure to reach the last World Cup and it would have been a disaster if we had failed again.
We knew we had the talent to beat Scotland but in the first game in Glasgow we did not work hard enough for that quality to make the difference. In the second match in Amsterdam we were able to show people how we can play."
If Galatasaray can follow the Dutch example and pull off massive wins in adversity against Juventus and Real, De Boer could have more than EURO 2004™ to look forward to after Christmas.
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