Walcott hungry for team success
Tue, 02 Apr 2013 18:18:00
Galatasaray travel to Real Madrid for the first leg of their Champions League last-eight tie, 12 years to the day since the Turkish club faced the same opposition on their last quarter-final appearance in the competition.
Galatasaray should take confidence from successive away victories against Cluj, SC Braga and Schalke 04 in this season's European campaign but Real present their toughest challenge yet, particularly at the Bernabeu.
Madrid have won 13, and lost one, of 16 European home fixtures since the appointment of Jose Mourinho.
The Madrid boss will field his strongest side on Wednesday, having rested the likes of Xabi Alonso, Mesut Ozil and Angel Di Maria at the weekend.
Raphael Varane and Fabio Coentrao are also expected to return after missing the 1-1 draw with Real Zaragoza with slight muscle injuries.
But goalkeeper Iker Casillas will only be on the bench, despite recovering from a hand injury, meaning Diego Lopez will start in net.
While Real have been eliminated in the semi-finals in the past two seasons, it is almost a quarter of a century since Galatasaray last reached the last four.
However, their cause is boosted by having two Champions League winners among their ranks who Mourinho knows very well.
Striker Didier Drogba won the Premier League twice under Mourinho's management at Chelsea between 2004 until 2007, before the Portuguese departed Stamford Bridge.
Drogba went on to further glory with Chelsea, scoring the winning penalty in last year's final as they beat Bayern Munich in a shoot-out after having also scored the Blues' equaliser in the Allianz Arena.
The 35-year-old quit the London club for a stint in China before moving to Turkey and he will lead the line against Real.
Alongside Drogba in attack will be Dutchman Wesley Sneijder, who won the Champions League with Mourinho at Inter Milan in 2010.
Galatasaray also have a number of other players with Champions League experience such as former Arsenal player, Felipe Melo and Fernando Muslera, who have represented Juventus and Lazio respectively.
The match also pits the two top scorers in this year's tournament against each other, with Burak Yilmaz lining up for the away side and Cristiano Ronaldo in the home ranks. Both have eight goals to their name.
The 24-year-old has become an increasingly important member of Arsene Wenger's squad this season, scoring more goals and providing more assists than ever before.
Walcott penned a new long-term contract at the Emirates Stadium in January and earlier this month racked up his 250th appearance for the club against Sunderland.
However, the England international would give up such personal achievements for club glory, with Arsenal's trophyless spell soon to reach an eighth year.
"I would personally take all of [my] appearances away to win something at this club," Walcott told Arsenal Player.
"Some people may think I'm mad but I think I'm not selfish. I like to think for the club and the fans.
"Appearances are great but winning things means more. Hopefully next season, when I hopefully reach 300 appearances, there will be a trophy on the end of that. That's the biggest target.
"I'm very proud of that [reaching 250 appearances]. I've worked hard through all the lows and the highs. This season especially, there have been a lot of highs. It's a nice positive.
"I don't want it to stop there. I want to continue to play and get back fit soon. It's a fantastic achievement and I'm very happy.
"I've definitely matured as a player. I've always been the same sort of person off the pitch. I've always got time for people. I think at times, the players might look for something to come from nowhere and at times that's maybe [up to] me or the likes of Jack [Wilshere].
"This season has been my best goalscoring and assist-making season. I can see why people may think that now. That's been the biggest step for me.
"The assists are something I'm very proud of. A lot of those come from the wing as well. An assist is just as important as getting a goal."