Galatasaray’s Ivorian forward Didier Drogba (right) and coach Fatih Terim hold a press conference at Metin Oktay Training Centre in Istanbul, yesterday, on the eve of the UEFA Champions League group B football match against Real Madrid.
MADRID: Real Madrid will get their first indication today of whether unprecedented spending on players of more than 600m euros over the past five years can secure the 10th European crown they have been chasing since 2002.
World-record signing Gareth Bale, who alone cost 100m euros ($133m) when he joined from Tottenham Hotspur this month, is likely to line up with 94m-euro man Cristiano Ronaldo when Real begin their Champions League campaign at Group B rivals Galatasaray.
Wales winger Bale scored on debut in Saturday’s 2-2 La Liga draw at Villarreal, while Portugal forward Ronaldo netted his 203rd goal in as many official matches for the Spanish giants.
Real, the world’s richest club by income, have splurged 611 million euros on players in the last five years, according to the latest Prime Time Sport Football Transfer Review.
Their outlay is almost three times as much as European and Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich, who have spent 227m, and only English Premier League side Manchester City come close with an outlay of 549m.
Real were boosted by the news on Sunday that Ronaldo had agreed a contract extension until the end of the 2017-18 season and club president Florentino Perez said the deal was in line with the club’s long-term policy of fielding the world’s best players.
“(Former president) Santiago Bernabeu showed us that this team should always count on the best,” the construction magnate told reporters.
“This is one of the main facets of our identity and with Cristiano we have the best,” he added.
“Those of us lucky enough to have seen Alfredo Di Stefano play always say that in Cristiano we have the continuation of such unique giants of the game capable of making history.”
Real, whose draw at Villarreal was their first setback in four La Liga matches this term, travel to Istanbul with a question mark over coach Carlo Ancelotti’s policy of rotating goalkeepers Iker Casillas and Diego Lopez.
Spain captain Casillas lost his place in the starting lineup last season after falling out with Ancelotti’s predecessor Jose Mourinho and the Italian has decided that Lopez will play in La Liga and Casillas in the Champions League.
The situation has prompted speculation that Casillas, a fixture for club and country for more than a decade and a hero to Real fans, could leave in the next transfer window in January.
“The decision is taken,” Ancelotti said after the Villarreal game. “Iker and Diego know it and there is no problem.”
Galatasaray’s disappointing start to the domestic season continued on Friday when they drew 1-1 at home to Antalyaspor, a third successive stalemate.
Speaking after the game, coach Fatih Terim was critical of the team’s failure to put away their chances but confident about the upcoming match.
“We don’t like losing points but the Real Madrid match will be different,” said Terim, a former Turkey and AC Milan coach.
“On our own pitch and in front of our own fans I think we will benefit from the famous Ali Sami Yen Arena pressure.”
Galatasaray’s hopes will rest on the attacking duo of former Chelsea striker Didier Drogba, who scored the equaliser in Friday’s match, and Burak Yilmaz, the top scorer in the domestic league for the last two seasons.
The club have been boosted by the arrival from Sporting Lisbon of Portuguese winger Bruma, one of the most promising youngsters in the nation’s under-20 side.
Defender Semih Kaya needed treatment for a thigh problem after Friday’s match, while Drogba and Brazilian midfielder Felipe Melo were in light training over the weekend after sustaining minor injuries.
Meanwhile, Paris Saint-Germain coach Laurent Blanc willbe expecting significent success in the European compeitition.
Blanc had led PSG to an unbeaten five-match start to their domestic season and gets a second crack at a Champions League campaign in which significent success is expected.
Carlo Ancelotti guided the capital side on a strong run to the quarter-finals last season where they narrowly lost to Barcelona on away goals and the club’s wealthy Qatari owners will be expecting at least the same this campaign if not better.
After three wins and two draws in five league outings, PSG travel to Athens for the opening round of group matches today where they face a stiff challenge against Greek champions Olympiakos.
A good result in the capital will put them in good stead amongst a pool that also includes Europa League finalists Benfica and Belgian champions Anderlecht.
Blanc knows what it takes to succeed in football’s biggest club competition having taken Bordeaux to the 2010 quarter-finals where they were knocked out by domestic rivals Lyon.
His team came out on top at Bordeaux 2-0 in their last league outing and club owner Nasser Al-Khelaifi is optimistic about their continental quest.
“This was our best match since the start of the season and I hope it will continue,” he said following the Friday win at the Chaban Delmas stadium.“On Tuesday we start the Champions League which is a very important competition for Paris. It is going to be tough, but we have a team capable of winning all our upcoming matches.”
While PSG come into the match as slight favourites, the Greeks cannot be underestimated and have a fine record at their Karaiskakis stadium, a venue that played a role in the first ever Olympic Games in 1896.
Their Spanish coach Michel, who scored 97 goals during 14 seasons at Real Madrid, is looking to take the team past their best run of reaching the quarter-finals, which they achieved once, back in 1999. AGENCIES