The Ali Sami Yen Spor Kompleksi can be an intimidatingly noisy place under the lights on a big night, but for a footballer as experienced as Gianluigi Buffon, stepping out in front of the Galatasaray AŞ fans on Tuesday is unlikely to faze him.
Speaking ahead of Juventus's decisive final UEFA Champions League Group B game in Istanbul, Buffon drew a parallel with the Italian title holders' trip to a similarly raucous arena, Celtic Park, in last season's round of 16. He recalled the role the home fans played in stirring up a wonderful atmosphere but added that it had no bearing whatsoever on the outcome on the pitch.
"Like I said in Glasgow, I've never seen supporters score a goal," said Buffon, 13 seasons a Juventus player. "And I think the same now obviously. A lot will depend on our attitude and the way we respond when their fans start making themselves heard."
Juve beat Celtic FC 3-0 that night in Glasgow but in Istanbul a draw will suffice to carry them through to the knockout stage. Buffon said it was impossible to play for a draw – "every game, we go out of the players' tunnel without making any calculations" – and he is eager for Juventus to start performing in the UEFA Champions League as they have been doing in Serie A.
The Bianconeri have won seven straight league games in their domestic competition. By comparison, they have won just one out of five in Group B, 3-1 against FC København last time out – enough to leave them second in the standings but there is work to do in Istanbul. "We know that we are playing better in Serie A than the Champions League this season but we hope that tomorrow we'll produce a good performance like in our league," Buffon said.
And where he has not conceded a goal during that seven-game winning sequence in Serie A, Buffon has not yet managed a European shutout this term. "The anomaly of the first part of the season is just that," he added. "I hope we can turn it around. Galatasaray have some great attacking players but we hope to find a solution to whatever problems they give us."
Thirty-six next month, the Italy goalkeeper is happy with his own form – "I feel better and stronger than last season" – but is less pleased by the absence from the Juve team of his fellow veteran Andrea Pirlo. The little midfield maestro is injured and Buffon admitted: "Playing without Pirlo will be a difficult situation for us absolutely. He has specific qualities so we won't try to replace him directly." Certain players really are irreplaceable, as the man with the nerves of steel in the Juve goal is ready to show us once more.
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