Galatasaray seeks making history as Drogba makes London comeback
LONDON - Agence France-Presse
Chelsea’s British midfielder Frank Lampard, (R) vies for the ball with Galatasaray’s Turkish forward Umut Bulut (L) during the UEFA Champions League round of 16 football match between Galatasaray and Chelsea on Feb. 26 at the TT Arena Stadium in Istanbul. AFP photoGalatasaray will be hoping to pull a major upset when it visits Chelsea in the Champions League round of 16 tonight, in the return game after a 1-1 draw.
The Turkish titleholder salvaged a draw with a goal from French defender Aurelien Chedjou, and it will be heartened with a brave performance in the second half.
Eyes will be on Galatasaray ace Didier Drogba, who is making his first return to Stanford Bridge after ending a glorious eight-year spell with the Blues.
He is a crowd favorite and a club legend but Drogba has warned Chelsea not to expect any favors when he makes an emotional return to his old club.
Jose Mourinho's side is reeling after a tempestuous 1-0 defeat at Aston Villa ended their 14-match unbeaten run in the Premier League and cast doubt about its ability to cope with the pressure of the title race.
The Blues imploded in spectacular fashion as Willian and Ramires were sent off, while Mourinho got his marching orders from referee Chris Foy after stepping onto the pitch to protest during the row that followed Ramires's dismissal.
The FA will examine Foy's match report before deciding whether to charge Mourinho, but there was no escaping the sense that Chelsea need to quickly recover their equilibrium to stop a promising season going up in smoke.
Mourinho's men remain four points clear at the top of the table, but they have less margin for error in Champions League, where a win or high-scoring draw for Galatasaray would send the Turks into the quarterfinals for the second successive year.
In the circumstances, it will be something of a bittersweet reunion with Drogba, who is certain to be greeted as a returning hero by Chelsea fans before the match but could end up shattering their European dreams by the end of the night.
Drogba, who remains close to Mourinho and is reportedly considering an offer to return to Chelsea as a striker coach next season, won every major prize during a glorious eight-year stay in west London.
He was the hero of the club's 2012 Champions League final victory against Bayern Munich, scoring a late equaliser and then netting the winning penalty in the shoot-out to seal Chelsea's first ever European Cup.
On the eve of his first appearance at the Bridge since his departure immediately after that unforgettable night in Munich, Drogba admitted he is nervous about how he will react to being the centre of attention.
"First of all I was happy to play against my ex-club, against my friends. But at the same time it is a very special moment because I do not know what my reaction will be," Drogba told UEFA.com.
"You know that I spent eight years at Chelsea, so I really don't know, I am quite apprehensive about it.
"It's the club where I experienced everything. It allowed me to get closer to the best players in the world."
Drogba makes no attempt to hide his love for Chelsea, but he would relish another run to the latter stages of the competition, even if it comes at the expense of his old friends.
"I hope that Galatasaray qualify. It will be difficult, but I think that regarding the welcome, 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," Drogba said.
"It will be great to see them again, I am looking forward to it."
There was one piece of good news for Mourinho after the Villa match as it emerged that Samuel Eto'o is expected to be fit for the Galatasaray tie.
Eto'o sat out the Villa game, but Fernando Torres gave a lacklustre performance in his place and Mourinho is likely to throw the Cameroon striker back into the fray.
Despite Saturday's troubling defeat, Chelsea are still firm favourites to advance to the last eight in Europe, which would be a welcome tonic for Mourinho, who has never hidden his dislike for Galatasaray coach Roberto Mancini.
"In Istanbul we saw each other and only said 'hello'. We certainly aren't friends," Mancini was quoted as telling Italian newspaper La Repubblica.
"I don't think Mourinho wants to have friends, or maybe that's just the way he likes to appear."