Galatasaray’s faced with Chelsea in the first knockout round of the Champions League will be dominated by Didier Drogba’s return to his former club.
Chelsea drew something of a short straw by getting one of the hardest teams available to them in Galatasaray in the First Knockout Round, but the headlines will focus on Didier Drogba returning to his old stomping ground at Stamford Bridge.
José Mourinho’s men will still be firm favourites to go through, but the away trip to Istanbul is a famously daunting one, and with Drogba, Wesley Sneijder and Burak Yilmaz among their ranks, Roberto Mancini’s men have plenty of opportunities to spring a surprise.
2014 UEFA Champions League Draw Chelsea vs Galatsaray: Galatasaray Team Facts
There’s a black cloud hanging over Galatasaray. After officials suspended their match against Juventus in the 31st minute, it resumed the following afternoon on a pitch that had been chewed up by tractors, a pitch looking much worse than the one that had been abandoned the previous day. Gala went on to win with a 85th minute goal and, my, some people are bitter.
It is difficult to view the Turkish side as much of a threat, however, particularly if you watched either of their games with Real Madrid. Galatasaray lost the first 6-1, and the second 4-1, despite having a man advantage. It’s clear the cim bom can grind out a result, but to beat one of the top teams in the world over two legs? Unlikely.
Key player: Didier Drogba
What, you wanted Burak Yilmaz? He’s not been his best under Roberto Mancini. No, sorry, the 35 year old Drogba still wins out. It’s still nearly impossible to take your eyes off the forward when he’s on the pitch and, despite his advancing years, Drogba remains difficult to contain, popping up anywhere around the box to get the ball in the back of the net. And with Wesley Sneijder healthy, well, these two veterans could combine to at least put up a fight against whichever side they’re pitted against.
Honorable mention: Fernando Muslera. Ok, the Uruguayan is nowhere near the best cim bom player, but you can’t deny that it’s fun to watch his, um, creative approach to goalkeeping.
2014 UEFA Champions League Draw Chelsea vs Galatsaray:Chelsea Team Facts
Chelsea have been in bizarre form so far this season, having never totally convinced domestically or continentally despite topping their Champions League group and moving to within five points of the Premier League lead. Mixed in with their victories is a smattering of strange defeats, such as both home and away to Basel in the Champions League, and to Newcastle United and Stoke City in the Premier League. José Mourinho has admitted he’s still trying to figure out his best team — something evident in Fernando Torres and Samuel Eto’o's scrap over a starting berth up front — though the Blues are certainly still certainly a force to be reckoned with. They beat Schalke 04 and Steaua Bucharest both home and away to top their Champions League group, and one suspects it’s only a matter of time before things really click into place. When that happens, it could be seriously difficult to halt their charge.
Key Player: Eden Hazard
Chelsea’s star man has probably been the Premier League’s star man so far this season, Eden Hazard. The Belgian attacking midfielder has excelled out on the left of Mourinho’s 4-2-3-1, and seems to be exploding into top form after last season’s encouraging transition from Ligue 1. He has completely dominated at times, with his finest performance coming in Chelsea’s recent topsy turvy 4-3 win over Sunderland, in which picked up two goals and an assist. Should he be able to sprinkle such magic again in the Champions League, Chelsea will already be some way to making the quarterfinals.
Key Matchup: Didier Drogba vs. John Terry
Two old teammates and friends, Drogba and Terry, will go up against each other in this tie. Both are rather past their best, but the Ivorian is still a hugely powerful presence on his day, and big games are very much his days. Terry, then, will have to stop him and deal with his physical and aerial threat.
While Chelsea are comfortably the better side on paper, they have been prone to shock results this season, many of which have come from poor defending of set-pieces. It was a Drogba goal from a set-piece that won the West London club their Champions League trophy, but they’ll be hoping history doesn’t repeat itself this time around.