London: Roberto Mancini’s Galatasaray have enough gumption to pull off a shocker in the Champions League. They have a bunch of talented and flexible players, which inadvertently makes them a bit unpredictable. There are enough reasons to conclude that they have it in them to take the fight to Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea.
However, the Blues will be the overwhelming favourites when the two sides meet at the Stamford Bridge on Tuesday for the Champions League last-16 second leg tie. Managed by Jose Mourinho, Chelsea have by far been the best of the English clubs in the European competition this season. And going by their performance in the Premier League, the Blues are well on course for a place in the last eight.
Nevertheless, it will be a match where emotions will rule over mathematics; enmity on the pitch will be conquered by familiarity off it, as Stamford Bridge brace up for the return of Didier Drogba, Chelsea’s favourite son.
In another match of the night, Real Madrid host Schalke 04. Real, who have all but sealed a place in the quarter finals after their 6-1 first-leg away victory, could hand Isco another opportunity to prove his worth. The playmaker has not been able to hold down a regular place in Carlo Ancelotti’s side since his big-money move from Malaga.
Real manager Carlo Ancelotti might give injured striker Karim Benzema a break against the German rivals. His target will be the crunch match with Barcelona in La Liga at the weekend with Real holding a four point lead at the top over their bitter rivals.
Drogba does not know how he will react when he returns to Stamford Bridge with his Galatasaray team. The Ivorian striker won three Premier League titles, four FA Cups, two League Cups and, most memorably, the 2012 Champions League when his penalty in the shootout clinched victory for the Londoners against Bayern Munich in the final at the Allianz Arena.
He scored 157 goals in 341 appearances for Chelsea between 2004-12 and was voted the greatest player in the club’s history. “It is the club where I experienced everything,” Drogba told the Uefa website. “I experienced the highest level, big games – it allowed me to get closer to the best players in the world.
“It is a very special moment because I do not know what my reaction will be. I am quite apprehensive about it,” he said of the second leg after the opening match in Istanbul ended in a 1-1 draw.
Mourinho looked close to tears after being given a rapturous welcome by the Stamford Bridge faithful when he returned for his second stint as manager at the start of the season but he believes Drogba deserves even more adulation from the fans.
“I think I’m allowed to say that I will receive a warm welcome because I know Chelsea’s fans and our relationship is really special,” said Drogba.