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Given that they have the best domestic league and cup record in the history of Turkish football..

It is perhaps unsurprising that at the time of writing, Galatasaray sit seven points clear at the top of the Turkish Super Lig. What is perhaps less expected is their success in this seasons Champions League.

For the first time since 2001 the Turkish giants have reached the last eight of Europe’s premier club competition following a determined 4–3 aggregate victory over German side Schalke 04. Now the reigning Turkish champions face the reigning Spanish champions: Real Madrid. However, the domestic fortunes of these two defending champions this season differ greatly. While Galatasaray currently sit seven points clear, Jose Mourinho’s side are 14 points adrift of leaders Barcelona in La Liga. That could prove a problem for Galatasaray, given that Mourinho’s future at the Bernabeu when his contract expires at the end of the season is far from certain, it is inevitable that Mourinho being Mourinho, he will want to go out on a high, and winning a third Champions League title with a third different club would be perfect in the eyes of the self proclaimed ‘Special One’.

A footballing fortress if ever there was one Galatasaray’s Turk Telekom Arena

A footballing fortress if ever there was one Galatasaray’s Turk Telekom Arena

Therefore, Galatasaray face a stern challenge in reaching only their second ever Champions League semi-final. It is not however, impossible, in fact, far from it. While this may be the trophy that Mourinho wants more than any other, he will perhaps consider himself lucky to be in the quarter-finals at all, his Madrid team looked almost down and out in the round of 16 against Manchester United until that Nani red card at Old Trafford. Another performance like that and Galatasaray could be seen as favourites. Particularly in Istanbul. Galatasaray’s Turk Telekom Arena holds the record for the largest crowd roar ever recorded, peaking at 131.76 decibels, and if the Turkish side still have a chance going into the second leg at Turkey, you can guarantee that there will be that same sort of atmosphere once again.

Perhaps the biggest indicator of Galatasaray’s potential on the global stage, however, is their transfer activity. In the winter transfer window Galatasaray brought in two massive names of European football: Wesley Sneijder and Didier Drogba. Sneijder cost 7.5 million Euros and is reported to have signed as Galatasaray were the only club willing to pay his six figure wage sum, and while Drogba’s fee from Shanghai Shenhua was free, you can be certain his wage was not.

Dynamic Duo: Didier Drogba celebrates debut goal with Wesley Sneijder

Dynamic Duo: Didier Drogba celebrates debut goal with Wesley Sneijder

But while these two have stolen the headlines, they are not the only reason Galatasaray are in there current position. Far from it. Turkish forward Buruk Yilmaz, who himself cost 5 million Euros from Trabzonspor in the summer, has taken the Champions League by storm, scoring eight in Europe so far, a record equalled only by a man he will come face to face with on Wednesday night, Cristiano Ronaldo. Elsewhere the likes of Hamit Altintop; Felipe Melo and Emmanuel Eboue make Galatasaray a team capable of dominating as an attacking threat and seeing out a game in equal measure, Eboue in particular can fall back when necessary but can also push forward on the overlap of Altintop, who is partial to hitting a spectacular goal on occasion.

Perhaps all of these factors combine to give Galatasaray their best chance to reach the Champions League semi-final, thus confirming their arrival on the global stage, since their last appearance in the quarter-final in 2001. They lost that tie 5–3 on aggregate, the team that beat them? Real Madrid.

Post written by Toby Wilding
Twitter: @1tobywilding

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