In a land where pitch invaders get boot kisses for stopping a game plays a team named Galatasaray. This team, led by former Chelsea talisman Didier Drogba, beat Italian champions Juventus on the final matchday of group play to earn themselves a second place berth in the Champions League knockout stages.
It seems destiny drew Chelsea and Galatasaray together. It will be a match-up rife with storylines, most of which will center around the homecoming of the Ivorian striker — the player who almost single-handedly won the 2012 Champions League title after Chelsea’s improbable run to the final.
Every Chelsea fan remembers the 88th minute header past Manuel Neuer, the extra-time penalty save by Petr Cech, and the jubilation of the final penalty kick coolly passed into the bottom left-hand corner by Drogba; all of this happened in the home of the title challengers, Bayern Munich.
Now, Drogba will be donning the colors of a rival team, yet he will not be any less loved at Stamford Bridge — a place where he is deemed a legend by the Chelsea faithful.
Yet those rose-colored glasses of what once was may be painfully ripped away when these two teams meet on the pitch.
Galatasaray are a very dangerous team. They reside in the country’s capital, Instanbul – or Constantinople for us history buffs – and not surprisingly are the most popular and decorated team in Turkey.
Drogba, as well as Wesley Sneijder and Fernando Muslera are the anchors of this team that is working on its third league title in as many years.
For all of their domestic success, Gala has never won the Champions League or even made the final for that matter.
Chelsea, as well, are a capital-based team with a massive following all over the world. They have plenty of success both domestically and in European competition and attract some of the best young talent in Europe.
Eden Hazard will be vastly important for Chelsea in attack while the leadership of John Terry and Petr Cech will be crucial for the Blues’ success.
Chelsea will first travel to Galatasaray on February 26 of next year and play hosts for the second leg on March 18.