Wednesday’s Champions League action kicks off at Rams Park with a high-stakes Group A encounter between Galatasaray and Manchester United.
Fresh off a 3-0 demolition of Everton at the weekend, Erik ten Hag’s side must find a way to translate their Premier League form resurgence to the continental front to avoid a group-stage elimination.
Drawn together with Copenhagen and Galatasaray, reaching the knockout stage as runners-up behind perennial Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich was the bare minimum the Dutchman had expected from his team.
However, things did not work well for United across the opening four matchdays.
Barring a nail-biting 1-0 home win over the Danish giants, Ten Hag’s men have lost their remaining three Champions League games this season, including a shocking 4-3 defeat in Denmark last time out.
Nailed to the bottom of the Group A standings at the start of the penultimate round, albeit only one point off the second qualifying spot, Man United must win in Istanbul to reignite their qualification hopes.
Since Galatasaray outperformed United at Old Trafford in the reverse fixture, anything other than three points on Wednesday would force the three-time European champions to seek salvation against Bayern.
If it comes to that, they would still need the reigning Super Lig holders to drop points against Copenhagen in their last group outing.
After a two-game unbeaten start to their Champions League journey, Galatasaray have lost back-to-back matches against Bayern despite scoring on both occasions.
Okan Buruk’s side can always rely on a raucous home atmosphere to strike fear into their opponents’ hearts, yet it often hasn’t been enough to guarantee success in Europe.
A 3-2 comeback triumph in Manchester remains their only victory in their last 15 matches in the Champions League group stages (D4, L10) and one of only two across their 15 most recent outings in the competition proper.
But including the Champions League qualifying, Galatasaray have racked up an incredible nine triumphs in their 11 competitive games at home this term (D1, L1).
Man United must take advantage of the Turkish powerhouse’s long-standing struggles in Europe’s elite competition, especially now that things seem to be finally going their way.
Sunday’s convincing victory at Goodison Park was United’s third in their last four matches in all competitions (L1), all of which saw Ten Hag’s side keep a clean sheet.
By contrast, the Red Devils have lost both away games in this season’s Champions League group stages via an identical 4-3 scoreline, bringing the injury-hit backline under the microscope.
Recent trips to Turkey have not worked out for Man Utd.
They’ll be out to end a three-match losing streak on Turkish soil and defy an underwhelming run of one win from their last four Champions League travels (D2, L5).
Unlike injury-plagued Man Utd, Galatasaray can call upon all first-team players for this ‘make or break’ fixture, including ex-Premier League stars Hakim Ziyech, Tanguy Ndombele, Tete and Wilfried Zaha.
As for the Red Devils, Casemiro, Christian Eriksen, Tyrell Malacia, Jonny Evans and Lisandro Martinez are still in the treatment room, while Rasmus Hojlund faces a race against time to overcome a thigh problem.
Marcus Rashford is unavailable for selection after picking up a red card against Copenhagen.
Galatasaray potential starting line-up:
(4-2-3-1): Fernando Muslera; Sacha Boey, Abdulkerim Bardakci, Kaan Ayhan, Angelino; Lucas Torreira, Kerem Demirbay; Hakim Ziyech, Dries Mertens, Wilfried Zaha; Mauro Icardi.
Manchester United potential starting line-up:
(4-2-3-1): Andre Onana; Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Harry Maguire, Victor Lindelof, Luke Shaw; Scott McTominay, Sofyan Amrabat; Antony, Bruno Fernandes, Alejandro Garnacho; Rasmus Hojlund.
We Say: Galatasaray 1-2 Manchester United
Man Utd have lost eight out of 11 competitive matches in which they’ve failed to keep a clean sheet this season, winning the remaining three.
On that basis, it stands to reason a clean sheet is United’s best hope of upsetting the Istanbul outfit, but it’s easier said than done.
Galatasaray have found the net in every game since a goalless league draw against Kayserispor in early August, suggesting the Red Devils’ attack may have to step up.
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