Turkish champion Galatasaray was paired with La Liga heavyweight Real Madrid in the quarterfinals of the topflight European Champions League (CL) in Friday's draw, a repetition of the 2001 draw, when the two also faced each other in the quarters of the competition.
Real, one of the pundits' favorites to win the competition, are at home first. The first legs will be played on April 2 or 3 and the second legs on April 9 or 10.
Galatasaray Chairman Ünal Aysal said he is confident that Galatasaray players and coaches are good enough to beat the odds. “There is no need to worry because it is hard [to eliminate Real Madrid]. Years ago, we triumphed over them,” Aysal said in remarks to GS TV, the club's TV channel.
Former Real Madrid player Hamit Altıntop told GS TV that Real Madrid seems to be the favorite to progress to the semis but his side can get into the last four if they manage to get a good result in the first leg match away.
The CL's current top scorers will be pit against each other in this quarterfinal match. Galatasaray's Burak Yılmaz and Real Madrid's Cristian Ronaldo have thus far scored eight goals each.
Resurgent Galatasaray made it into the last eight of the competition after a bad start. The İstanbul giants clinched only one point in the first three games of the Champions League in the group stage, where they faced England's Manchester United, Romania's Cluj and Portugal's Braga. In the remaining three games the Galatasaray Lions proved their staying power with a three-game winning streak in the group. After the group stage, the Galatasaray Lions eliminated Bundesliga powerhouse Schalke 04 with a sweeping away victory this week to make its way into the quarters in Europe's elite competition.
Real director Emilio Butragueno told Sky Sports: “We need to get a very good result at home because we know that their fans will make it very difficult there. Galatasaray have overcome some tough hurdles and they will be very competitive and by signing Didier Drogba they have improved tremendously.”
The two sides faced each other in the CL quarters in 2001, when Real Madrid eliminated Galatasaray. Earlier in 2000, Galatasaray defeated Real Madrid 2-1 to win the Super Cup, given to the winner of the match between CL and second-tier UEFA Cup, now Europa League, title holders.
Meanwhile, Netherlands coach Louis van Gaal recalled Galatasaray playmaker Wesley Sneijder, who fell from grace while at Italy's Inter Milan with a lackluster performance, for the first time since September in naming his squad for the 2014 World Cup Group D qualifiers against Estonia and Romania later this month. He joined Galatasaray in January but van Gaal said Sneijder was not yet back to his best.
Other CL pairings are: Malaga vs. Borussia Dortmund, Paris Saint Germain vs. Barcelona and Bayern Munich vs. Juventus.
In the second-tier Europa League, Turkish football powerhouse Fenerbahçe was matched with Italian side Lazio in the quarterfinals. The Fenerbahçe Yellow Canaries tied 1-1 against Czech side Viktoria Plzen on Thursday night, a score that put the İstanbullites through 2-1 on aggregate into the last eight. Lazio and Fenerbahçe, who have both been in trouble with UEFA over fan behavior, will play the second-leg game in Italy at an empty stadium since UEFA ordered Lazio to play behind closed doors due to fan behavior. Fenerbahçe has played two Europa League matches without its audiences this season due to its boisterous fans. The first legs will be played on April 4 and the second legs on April 11. Other draws: Chelsea vs. Rubin, Tottenham vs. Basel and Benfica vs. Newcastle.