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Having seen off Napoli in the playoffs, winning 4-2 in Italy after being held at Camp Nou, the Catalans now face a team from Turkey for the first time in two decades.
After a slow start to the season, there has been a constant crescendo in performances since Xavi Hernández took charge of the side. Barça are winning games and winning them handsomely, and victory in Elche at the weekend sent them up to third in the Liga table.
Thursday’s opponents were in even bigger trouble when another Catalan, Domènec Torrent, took charge of the side in January. A team that is used to competing for the big honours was languishing in mid-table, and although there has been some improvement in results under the new coach, a 2-0 defeat at Konyaspor last weekend suggests there is still a lot of work to be done.
But disappointments at home have contrasted with some fine displays in the Europa League. ‘Gala’ came out of the group stage with flying colours, undefeated in a difficult group that they shared with Lazio, Marseille and Lokomotiv Moscow.
It’s very much in this tournament that Galatasaray can save their season. Barça’s mission is to stop that from happening.
Barça continue to be without the injured Sergi Roberto, Samuel Umtiti and Ansu Fati for this game, while Gavi misses out through suspension and Dani Alves is ineligible for the Europa League.
Galatasaray are without goalkeeper Fatih Öztürk (but do have a very familiar face between their sticks in Barça loanee Iñaki Peña) while a groin strain means that Arda Turan will be unable to line up against his former side.
"It’s not the Champions League but the idea of doing well in the Europa League still excites us. We need a good result tomorrow because it won’t be easy in Turkey.”
“Ansu is nearly over his injury and should hopefully be able to rejoin training soon.
“Iñaki Peña made brave move. He wanted to play and he’s doing very well. The idea is for him to come back to Barça and be part of the team.”
"Doménech is a friend. A few months ago he came to Al-Sadd to watch how we work. Their model is very similar to ours. It’s hard to understand why Galatasaray are in the position they’re in right now, especially with their history and players.”
“Galatasaray is a compact team with interesting tactics. They have individuals who can surprise us, but if we can get the ball off them, we can really make them suffer.”
"There will be changes tomorrow because we have players who are tired or have minor fitness issues. We have a lot of midfielders and it’s always good to keep things fresh.”
“I don’t think we’re favourites. We’re not familiar with this competition and we’ve never won it before. Sevilla are more favourites than us because they’ve won it several times before. We’ve done nothing.”
Frenkie de Jong also spoke to the media on the eve of the game:
Did you know?
Galatasaray have never won at Camp Nou, but did managed a 2-2 in 2002/02. In fact, in 16 attempts the Turks have only won away to a Liga side one, against Mallorca in 1999/00.
Only three players can boast more than Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s 23 goals in the Europa League (Radamel Falcao (30), Aritz Aduriz (26) and Munas Dabbur (24)).
Today’s referee is Benoit Bastien of France, who has never taken charge of either side before.
If you sense something familiar about Galatasaray’s top scorer this season, Kerem Aktürkoğlu (6 goals) it may be because of his uncanny resemblance to Harry Potter actor Daniel Radcliffe. In fact, Aktürkoğlu has been known to dress up as the Hogwarts pupil on special occasions!
1993/94 Champions League Group A
Galatasaray 0-0 Barça
Barça 3-0 Galatasaray
1994/95 Champions League Group A
Barça 2-1 Galatasaray
Galatasaray 2-1 Barça
2001/02 Champions League Group B
Barça 2-2 Galatasaray
Galatasaray 0-1 Barça
2002/03 Champions League Group H
Galatasaray 0-2 Barça
Barça 3-1 Galatasaray
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