Thursday, March 23, 2017

Galatasaray v Astana: Europa League spot up for grabs in Group C

SoccerNews in UEFA Champions League 6 Dec 2015

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Galatasaray and Astana face-off for the chance to qualify for Europe’s second-tier competition in their final Champions League Group C fixture on Tuesday.

The Turkish giants welcome Astana to Istanbul, with the hosts a point clear in third position and only requiring a draw to book a spot in the Europa League heading into matchday six.

Galatasaray’s hopes of finishing in Group C’s top two were ended when they were beaten 2-0 by Atletico Madrid at the Vicente Calderon last time out, while Astana held Benfica to a 2-2 draw.

Kazakh champions Astana are yet to earn a point on the road but they have drawn all three of their home fixtures to remain in the hunt for Europa League football.

New Galatasaray coach Mustafa Denizli, who replaced Hamza Hamzaoglu last month, will be looking to mark his return to the club with a European victory.

On Friday, Galatasaray beat Bursaspor 3-0 at home to break a run of five games without a win in all competitions.

Gala are traditionally strong at home in European competitions, losing only six of their last 23 matches in front of their home supporters in the Champions League and Europa League. 

Selcuk Inan and Burak Yilmaz are available after serving suspensions but Hamit Altintop remains on the sidelines and Jason Denayer is also injured.

Baurzhan Dzholchiyev is serving a one-match ban for Astana.

Denizli’s men will go into the match as strong favourites, with stars such as Wesley Sneijder and Lukas Podolski likely to be key, but Astana will be full of confidence after recently defending their Kazakh league title. 

When the teams met in the second round of Group C fixtures, three late own goals ensured Gala returned to Istanbul with a 2-2 draw.

Hakan Balta, Nenad Eric and Lionel Carole all put the ball through their own net as Astana, a club that was founded just six years ago, claimed their first ever point in the Champions League.

Off the field, the two clubs enjoy a close relationship having signed a memorandum of cooperation in 2014, with Astana aiming to learn from Gala’s experience on the European stage.

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