Didier Drogba returns to Stamford Bridge for the first time since leaving Chelsea. On Tuesday, he will look to knock them out of the tournament he once won with the Blues. Also, Real Madrid host Schalke.
Drogba back to his old stomping ground
Didier Drogba’s last kick of the ball in a Chelsea jersey was the penalty that won the Champions League for the Blues for the first and only time in their history 20 months ago. Drogba has had mixed fortunes since then; embarking on a “new challenge” in a different environment only to come back to Europe six months later. Chelsea supporters would look at their current strike force and lament the lack of firepower up front, but since manager Jose Mourinho doesn’t have the luxury of throwing him up front, he will have to devise a plan to stop the monster he created.
It isn’t the first time Drogba has faced Jose Mourinho in a competitive fixture since his departure from Chelsea. The two met in the Champions League quarterfinals one season ago, but the fact that their next meeting is to take place at Stamford Bridge adds a different complexion to this occasion altogether.
Chelsea must bounce back from Villa defeat?
At the risk of the return of Didier Drogba to Stamford Bridge turning Chelsea hosting Galatasaray into a sideshow, the Blues go into this fixture having come off a bad defeat at Aston Villa. Two red cards and three points dropped coupled with all the remaining sides in the Top 4 winning their respective fixtures made it the worst possible weekend for Chelsea. Oscar has also endured a slight dip in form, the likes of Mohamed Salah are still being eased into the squad, while the strikers currently at Chelsea often choose the wrong time to draw blanks.
However, the Blues also have the luxury of an away goal in the bag. Considering Chelsea do not concede goals very often, Galatasaray would be in for a long night. After all, they need to score.
A cause for worry for Jose Mourinho, however, is his team’s mixed record in the Champions League this season. They did manage to top their group, but were unimpressive, losing twice to Basel, including once at home. Chelsea have never lost at home under Jose Mourinho in the Premier League; but the self-proclaimed Special One doesn’t have a perfect record in European competition. Mourinho was at pains to explain why his squad is not large enough to win both the Premier League and the Champions League, and has lashed out at how the fixture scheduling hurts his and other English sides ability to do well in Europe, but Tuesday’s clash with Galatasaray will be all about getting the job done.
Can Roberto Mancini improve his European record?
Roberto Mancini has had a fairly successful tenure as the predecessor of Jose Mourinho at Inter Milan, winning three league titles while helping deliver a first league title in 44 years at Manchester City. Those who watch the Premier League on a regular basis, however, are well aware of Mancini’s poor record in European football. Not only did Inter and Manchester City underperform in Europe, his successor at either club has immediately improved their fortunes in the continent.
Ever since Mancini took over at Galatasaray six months ago, he has had a chance to improve this record without as much scrutiny. He has already succeeded in getting out of a group containing Real Madrid and Juventus (in fact, knocking Juve out of the Champions League in atrocious playing conditions). Getting past a Chelsea side managed by Jose Mourinho, however, is a different matter.
Can Real Madrid emphasise Champions League credentials?
Real Madrid’s expensively assembled squad has been, arguably, the best performing squad in the Champions League. They have yet to lose a game, and until now, have recorded two 6-1 wins away from home. One of those victories came in the first leg of their Champions League tie away at Gelsenkirchen, rendering Schalke’s visit to the Bernabeu nearly irrelevant. It isn’t a question of whether Real will win, but what the margin of victory would be.
Will Carlo Ancelotti tinker with his lineup?
Given the comprehensive nature of Real Madrid’s 6-1 away win the the first leg, manager Carlo Ancelotti will be forgiven for treating this fixture as an opportunity to experiment with this lineup. There could not have been a better place and time for him to do this – young players get to play Champions League football for Real Madrid without much pressure, while keeping some of his stars fresh for the El Clasico on Sunday.
Karim Benzema limping off the field during Real’s 1-0 win over Malaga at the La Rosaleda gives the former Chelsea, Milan and Juventus manager the opportunity to throw Alvaro Morata up front. He also tried using Isco in a deeper midfield role at Malaga. While that did not work out too well for the former Malaga midfielder, Ancelotti now has another opportunity to test the young Spaniard in a less pressurising environment.