Real Madrid makes Champions League statement with opening show

Carlo Ancelotti's men put their indifferent away form behind them to thrash the Turkish team and began their quest for La Decima in sumptuous style with a 6-1 win in Istanbul.
Istanbul is probably not Carlo Ancelotti's favorite place. The Italian coach famously saw his AC Milan side self destruct from 3-0 up in the Turkish metropolis and lose the Champions League final to Liverpool on penalties in 2005, but back in the same city on Tuesday the 54-year-old's Madrid team made its mark on Europe's elite competition with a vanquishing victory at Galatasaray.

Still sore after the 2005 defeat, Ancelotti told Madrid midfielder (and former Liverpool player) Xabi Alonso on the first day of training at Real: "You owe me a Champions League!"

But the Italian may just have better memories of Istanbul following Tuesday's thrashing - a Gala show which sets the Spanish side up for its latest tilt at La Decima in some style.

The 6-1 scoreline did not truly reflect the play, but it will nevertheless send shock waves through the competition. Galatasaray gave as good as it got in the first half and was arguably the better team until Isco's special strike made it 1-0 after 33 minutes, while Karim Benzema added another nine minutes after the interval. That spelled the end of the game as a contest, but Madrid then turned the screw late in the match with four more goals. No mercy.

It has been an uneasy start to the Bundesliga for Bayern Munich this season, but with critics of Pep Guardiola’s tactics in full voice, the Bavarians began their defense of the Champions League in brilliant fashion.

While the club has often struggled in the opening minutes this term, Bayern got off to a flying start against CSKA Moscow, with David Alaba netting a free kick within minutes of the off. The team could have been out of sight by the time Mario Mandzukic finally doubled the lead before the break.

Arjen Robben added gloss to the result in a routine second half to cap a thoroughly easy night for the Bavarians. Make no mistake, Bayern is firmly among the front runners for this competition.

- Enis Koylu
However bad the home side's defending, few teams travel to the Turkish city and emerge with such a convincing win. At what is a notoriously hostile and difficult destination for visiting teams, Madrid made a real statement of intent on Tuesday in a competition the club is so desperate to win.

Following the immense investment over the summer, club president Florentino Perez is under pressure to deliver La Decima to the Spanish side, a nine times winner of the most prestigious tournament in European football that has been without the famous trophy since 2002.

Madrid had been on the ropes at Galatasaray in the quarterfinals of last season's competition, while unconvincing away games this season at Granada (a 1-0 win) and Villarreal (a 2-2 draw on Saturday) recently raised doubts ahead of this clash.

Ancelotti has spoken of a lack of balance in midfield and at times on Tuesday that was still apparent. Sami Khedira offered increased protection to the back four, while Luka Modric pulled the strings from deep, yet Madrid still saw itself overrun during parts of the opening 45 minutes.

Fortunately for the team, however, Galatasaray was wasteful, while Iker Casillas and subsequently Diego Lopez (who replaced the injured club captain after just 13 minutes) made fine saves. At the other end, Madrid's attacking power proved too much for Fatih Terim's team.

Benzema showed he can add hard work to his excellent technique as he chased down balls and pressed from the front, earning his double on what was one of his finest performances away from home in a Madrid shirt.

Elsewhere, Isco again made light of the departure of Mesut Ozil as he struck a sweet strike in the first half and assisted another for Cristiano Ronaldo in the second. Angel di Maria also provided two assists, while Ronaldo hit a hat trick which included a quite brilliant third in a week which began with news of his fresh five-year deal with the Spanish side.

"When Benzema and Ronaldo play like that, it is easy," Ancelotti enthused afterwards.

Ronaldo was also content. "It is the best possible start," the Portuguese said. "It gives us a lot of confidence."

Europe's top teams would do well to take note.

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