Barcelona and Galatasaray: the opportunity for Xavi to validate his good moment in the Europa League | Soccer


The Barcelona visit Istanbul’s Nef Stadium with the aim of repeating the performance he starred in at the Diego Armando Maradona Stadium in Naples in the previous round of the Europa League and sellar his pass to the quarterfinals of the competition defeating Galatasaray at home.

In Naples, the team thrashed the Italian team (2-4) in one of their best games of the season, after drawing at the Camp Nou (1-1). A script very similar to tomorrow’s, as the azulgranas did not go beyond a goalless draw against the Turks in the first leg and, like three weeks ago, they will have to win as visitors if they want to stay alive in Europe.

Despite having to play it in Turkey, Barça is still the favorite in the tie. In the first leg, they were far superior to Galatasaray, although he condemned his lack of aim, and since he fell in extra time against Real Madrid in the semifinals of the Spanish Super Cup, Xavi Hernández’s team has not stopped growing and has gone eleven games without defeat.

The progression in his game in recent weeks has led Barcelona to be one of the firm candidates to win the League Europe. Tomorrow, in Istanbul, he will need another prestigious victory to confirm his candidacy.

He will have to do it again without Dani Alves, his starting right-back, who is not entered in the competition, although he does bring back midfielder Nico González, who missed the last league game against Osasuna (4-0). Defenders Samuel Umtiti and Alejandro Balde, midfielder Sergi Roberto and striker Ansu Fati are still out.

However, Xavi has few doubts to make the eleven in Istanbul. Ter Stegen, as he will always be the starting goalkeeper, Dest will replace Alves on the right side, Jordi Alba is indisputable on the left side and the axis of the defense will be formed by Araujo, whom Xavi reserved against Osasuna, and Piqué, in principle recovered from the overload suffered in the adductors in the match against the Navarre team.

The midfield will be for Sergio Busquets, Frenkie de Jong, who also rested in the last league game, and Pedri. In the attack, however, there are more doubts. Ferran Torres, on the right, and Aubemeyang, in the middle, seem fixed. Instead, for the extreme left there are two candidates: Gavi or Dembélé.

Galatasaray, like Barça, is a team that is experiencing an atypical season, far removed from its usual level, which has led it to have to see the top positions in the Turkish Super League with binoculars, although in Europe they have found an oasis that has allowed them to reach the round of 16 of the Europa League.

After 29 games of domestic competition, the Istanbul team is eleventh, no less than 32 points behind the leader, Trabzonspor, and nine points behind.

After a difficult first month, in which Galatasaray did not achieve any victory with three defeats and two draws, things are starting to look up for one of Istanbul’s historic ensembles.

On February 21 he got his first win with Torrent on the bench (2-3 against Göztepe) and since then he has added two more in three games, the last one on Monday in the derby against Besiktas (2-1).

These results, added to the goalless draw they achieved in the first leg of the Europa League round of 16 at the Camp Nou, have boosted the morale of a team clinging to the talent of young striker Kerem Aktürkoglu, to the security that Iñaki Peña provides in goal, on loan from Barça until the end of the season, and in the lively atmosphere of his stadium to pass the tie.

Torrent already made it clear in the press conference prior to the match that his team’s approach will not be very different from the one offered at the Camp Nou, with a low block that blew up the Barça attack. In fact, Galatasaray was the first team to manage to keep a clean sheet. against Barça since December 4, 2021, when Betis got it.

The Turkish team only has two casualties, the former Barça player Arda Turan and the goalkeeper Fatih Ozturk. Thus, Torrent could bet on the same eleven that worked so well for him in the first legin which, apart from Peña and Aktürkoglu, would be the former Valencia and Almería player Sofiane Feghouli and the Dutchman Ryan Babel.

This will be the fifth time that both teams have met in Istanbul, although the previous four were in the group stage of the Champions League and at the old Ali Sami Yen Stadium. There Barça signed two victories, a draw and a defeat.

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