As Galatasaray AŞ midfielder Hamit Altıntop looks ahead to a reunion, the message from the Real Madrid CF camp is clear: underestimate the Turkish outfit at your peril.
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Former Real Madrid CF favourite Emilio Butragueño insisted that "Europe doesn't give you any presents" as he dismissed the notion that Galatasaray AŞ provide relatively easy quarter-final opponents.
"You never know," said the Merengues' erstwhile star striker and current director of institutional relations. "On paper it looks like there were stronger and more difficult teams to be drawn against, but in football and especially this competition it's difficult to beat any opponent. We have maximum respect. It's a very prestigious competition and also very dangerous. Any mistake, any bad night and you can be eliminated."
Galatasaray have previous in giving Madrid scares. In 2001, eight months after the Spanish side had edged the UEFA Super Cup in the first meeting between the teams, they were drawn at this same stage of the UEFA Champions League. With Iker Casillas in goal, the European title holders eased into a 2-0 away lead but were stunned as the Turkish hosts stormed back to win 3-2; three unanswered first-half goals in the return took Madrid through.
Aitor Karanka played in both legs and, now assistant coach at the Santiago Bernabéu, spoke from experience when he warned: "It would be wrong to think Galatasaray will be easy to beat." Hamit Altıntop, who swapped Madrid for the Istanbul outfit last summer, certainly sounded confident, especially with the second match on home turf this time. "If we can get a good result in the first leg away then we all know what we can achieve in front of our own fans," said the 30-year-old.
"It's a nice draw," added Hamit. "If you analyse Real Madrid's performances over the course of this season you would say they were a bit lucky knocking Manchester United out [in the round of 16]. However, Real Madrid are a team you can't doubt. Even if they are favourites, there is another possibility. I am really positive. It will be good to see my old team-mates and my former coach José Mourinho."
They may not be quite so pleased to see the midfielder if he repeats the stunning strike he managed at FC Schalke 04 on Tuesday that set his team on course for the last eight. "Galatasaray showed against Schalke how competitive they are, how brave they are," said Butragueño. "We know how passionate the Turkish fans are; we need to keep that in mind and achieve a great result at the Bernabeu in the first leg. We are off the pace in the Liga so the UEFA Champions League is even more important."