In an exclusive interview with Goal, the former Borussia Dortmund star also explained how PSG can still overcome Manchester City to reach the final
Nuri Sahin is backing former club Real Madrid to see off Chelsea and reach the Champions League final.
And the Turkish midfielder is not ruling out a dramatic comeback from Paris Saint-Germain against Manchester City in the week’s other semi-final, either.
It promises to be an intriguing couple of days in Europe’s premier club competition, Real and Chelsea are locked at 1-1 after last week’s first leg in Madrid, while City are strong favourites to reach their first ever Champions League final having secured a 2-1 advantage after a pulsating clash in Paris.
Sahin, a finalist with Borussia Dortmund in 2013, spent a season with Real in 2011-12, and believes Zinedine Zidane’s men have the quality and experience to overcome an in-form Chelsea side, which is managed by his former Dortmund boss Thomas Tuchel.
What’s been said?
Speaking exclusively to Goal, Sahin said: “I think it will be an open game, as it was in the first leg. I’m really looking forward to it.
“Both sides are in a good moment, I would say. Chelsea are playing really well under Thomas Tuchel, and tactically they play really different. They play maybe the best football tactically right now. You can see that they have a plan, with three at the back. I know the coach and he’s very good tactically.
“But on the other side, you have the boss of the Champions League in Real Madrid and Zinedine Zidane! They are still in a good moment, even if people maybe don’t think they are as strong. I have my fingers crossed for them, and I think they can do it
“But it will be a good game regardless.”
‘I saw Benzema’s quality every day’
Sahin only made 10 appearances during his season with Real Madrid, with injuries hampering his time in the Spanish capital.
He did, however, get to witness at close-quarters the quality and drive of the likes of Karim Benzema, who is still delivering for Los Blancos at the highest level.
“For me it was really special to share a dressing room with these guys, and to see how professional they are and how good they are,” Sahin says.
“Guys like Sergio Ramos and Benzema have been on the top level for the last 10-15 years, and I really enjoy their hunger. It’s crazy how they stay hungry still, even though they have won everything.
“To see them every day giving everything in training is really something special. Benzema is one of the top three strikers in the world. I saw it every day in training, and it’s really nice to see how well he is playing right now.”
‘Pulisic can do even more’
Sahin may be hoping for a Real Madrid victory at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday, but the 32-year-old, who now plays for Turkish Super Lig side Antalyaspor, also has a vested interest in Chelsea star Christian Pulisic, whom he lined up alongside at Dortmund.
“I like Christian a lot,” he said. “He was always a good player, you could see that, but what I liked especially was that he was always ready to listen and learn. He was always humbled, he was always focused on his goals and he was really determined. This is what I loved about him.
“We still keep in touch. He’s a very good guy, and I hope that his impact at Chelsea can be even bigger. You see in his first seasons that there is an impact, as we saw in the first leg against Real Madrid, but I am sure there is a lot more to give.”
‘PSG can score goals for fun’
With regards to the other semi-final, Sahin believes City, who came from behind to win in Paris in the first leg, are strong favourites.
However, he is convinced that PSG have the firepower to spring a surprise at the Etihad Stadium on Tuesday evening.
“It will be difficult for them, of course,” he said. “The result for City is perfect with two away goals, and everyone expects that they will go through.
“But we are talking about Paris Saint-Germain, and everyone knows, as I am sure Pep Guardiola knows, that this team can score goals for fun!
“When you have Neymar and [Kylian] Mbappe, anything can happen. I played against Mbappe when he was 17 at Monaco. He was incredible. He reminded me straight away of Thierry Henry.
“He’s a very, very good player, a joy to watch. I like what he is doing, and I also like his personality – in a way he’s humble, but in another way he’s arrogant, you know? His potential is crazy!”
Another Istanbul epic?
So will it be Real Madrid v Manchester City, Real v PSG, Chelsea v PSG or Chelsea v Manchester City in the final?
Whatever the combination, it promises to be a classic. And the host venue, Istanbul’s Ataturk Stadium, knows all about hosting classic finals. It was the stage, of course, for the most dramatic Champions League final of all, Liverpool’s incredible comeback win over AC Milan in 2005.
“Istanbul is a great city that connects both continents and cultures,” Sahin says. “For the last years Turkey invested big on sports, not only in football. We have great venues in every sport.
“So I think Istanbul will be a great host city for the Champions League final. I was at the beginning of my career when the epic final of 2005 was held in Istanbul. Now, one more time I think this year’s final will again take its place in the history of the game.”