Zach Lowy interviews Galatasaray fan @Ataqoz on the Turkish club’s chances this group stage.
ZL: With the sale of Bafétimbi Gomis, can Galatasaray still threaten to advance past the groups?
A: Selling Gomis without signing a replacement means Gala really shot themselves in the foot – there was talk of Modeste but we ended up with nothing. It’s a big ask to have Eren Derdiyok up front alone. Hopefully coach Fatih Terim can shoehorn 21 year old Nigerian youngster Henry Onyekuru into the role.
ZL: Onyekuru has always seemed to me like a speedy winger or perhaps even a second striker to me, but perhaps not a physical 9 in a league such as Turkey’s, or the CL. How do you expect Terim to use the Nigerian this season?
A: I definitely expect him to start out as a SS and Garry Rodriguez would move into the winger position.
ZL: What do you think will be Gala’s first choice XI for the CL?
A: Muslera Mariano Aziz Maicon Nagatomo Fernando N’diaye Sinan Akbaba Rodriguez Henry. Sinan may be swapped out for Feghouli.
ZL: What’s one player who has the most to prove going into the season, a player who will have a make-or-break 2018/19?
A: I’d say Belhanda has until Christmas to prove himself. Has been totally ineffective since arriving last season, he took the number 10 from Sneijder and got 3 outrageous red cards already to cause a rift with the fans. He needs to justify himself and his wages in a big way – or he’s out in January.
ZL: Who’s one player who you expect to break through this season?
A: Emre Akbaba – the 25 year old signed this summer from Alanyaspor and is a childhood Gala fan. He’s a tricky midfielder with a great shot. He just scored twice for Turkey against Sweden – very hot property back home right now. I expect him to make an impact in Europe next.
ZL: Would you say Gala got worse over the summer?
A: Yes, overall. They improved in midfield, but the losses of Gomis up front and Jason Denayer in defense are huge.
ZL: How do you think Galatasaray can defeat their opponents and get through to the knockouts?
A: Win home games.
ZL: What is one advantage Gala have over their opponents, besides the power of their fans?
A: Gala have defeated all 3 teams in the group previously, and Terim will use this to motivate the players to repeat history. Terim is the master of motivation, his experience will be key here.
ZL: Could this be Terim’s last spell at the club?
A: Possibly. He just turned 65 and after his spell at Gala ends, he’ll likely retire. But before then, he wants to take this club as far as possible in Europe’s biggest tournament. His last spell with Gala ended in the Champions League quarterfinals in 2013.
ZL: How far do you expect them to go this season?
A: Round of 16. I expect at least 2 wins at home and to not lose in Germany.
ZL: What are Gala’s biggest weaknesses?
A: No clinical finisher up front and general lack of squad depth.
ZL: What in particular are Gala missing when it comes to depth?
A: No sub CBs and no second goalkeeper. It’s difficult as they are playing in three competitions.
ZL: Who’s the most crucial player for Gala?
A: The Fernando-Ndiaye partnership, if I can say that. The duo formed an essential link in the midfield which was missing after Ndiaye left in January and Fernando was out injured. Now they are reunited.
ZL: How vital has Maicon been on his return to Europe?
A: He scores from corners and even occasionally from free kicks, but his defending has been haphazard at times. He’s very inconsistent, but when he’s good, he’s top class.
ZL: What’s one thing that Gala’s opponents won’t be expecting?
A: I think the speed of Onyekuru and Rodriguez will have a lot of defenders stumped.
ZL: What’s one thing that Gala must improve on if they are to get past the groups?
A: They must improve on defending set pieces, especially corners. Also, they have to improve on their away form.
Photo: Getty/Anadolu Agency