There could hardly be a better way to bounce back from a damaging league defeat than to secure progression into the quarter-finals of the Champions League. As Galatasaray, along with Chelsea legend Didier Drogba, visit Stamford Bridge, we are presented with that exact opportunity.
While I’ve decided to take a positive approach to the fact that we could book our place in the next round of Europe’s elite cup competition two days after suffering misery at Villa Park, it could prove to have a detrimental effect if, for example, confidence has ebbed, such an outcome is a rarity for a side under Jose Mourinho’s stewardship. But Galatasaray must not be underestimated.
The Turks, managed by former Manchester City coach Roberto Mancini, demonstrated their flaws and attributes in Istanbul three weeks ago. Their defence was porous that evening as their suicidal defending almost came close to costing them dearly, with Fernando Torres’s vital away goal our only significant exploitation of their defects.
However, credit must be given to Mancini who withdrew Izet Hajrovic as defensive midfielder Yekta Kurtulus took his place after only 30 minutes. The Italian coach had sensed his side’s defensive woes and Kurtulus provided stability to the Galatasaray back-line.
Our failure to seal more than the one away goal during Galatasaray’s half-an-hour of uncertainty served as evidence of Mourinho’s claims that we are a work in progress, a developing, youthful team. A complete team, as Jose put it, would have put the tie beyond their woeful opponents in those thirty or so minutes. Fortunately, as Galatasaray dominated the second-half, Aurelien Chedjou’s feebly-conceded goal was our only punishment for our profligacy earlier in the first-half.
As Gianni Infantino conducted the draw for the knockout phase, and paired us with Galatasaray, I immediately made my predictions. Tight in Istanbul and comfortable at the Bridge was my verdict, its veracity proven three weeks ago as I now await the second-leg, in which Didier Drogba makes his much-anticipated return to Stamford Bridge.
Scoring 157 goals in 341 games, coupled with his work rate and overall contribution, the Ivorian has established himself as a true Chelsea legend. In his last game, his 341st, for the Blues, Drogba fired us to our first Champions League triumph in our history, scoring the equalising header and keeping his composure to win us the European Cup from the penalty spot.
Now, he threatens to dump us out of the competition.
Predicted Starting XIs:
Chelsea – Cech, Ivanovic, Cahill, Terry, Azpilicueta, Lampard, Ramires, Willian, Schurrle, Hazard, Eto’o.
Galatasaray – Muslera, Eboue, Chedjou, Hakan Balta, Alex, Sneijder, Inan Selcuk, Melo, Yekta Kurtulus, Drogba, Yilmaz Burak.