John Mikel Obi and David Luiz have been reflecting on the draw for the last 16 of the Champions League, after the Blues were paired with a familiar face.
Having been drawn to play Galatasaray in the first knockout stage of the competition, Didier Drogba will return to Stamford Bridge for the first time since leaving Chelsea.
The tie, which sees us travel to Istanbul for the first leg, affords Blues supporters an opportunity to show their appreciation for the eight years’ service Drogba gave the club, a spell which culminated with the Ivorian winning us the Champions League in Munich with his very last kick in a Chelsea shirt.
Mikel is yet to hear from Drogba, but while understandably looking forward to facing his friend and former team-mate, he stressed the importance of focusing on overcoming a side now managed by Roberto Mancini.
‘I’m sure he will text very soon, he’s probably having a drink after seeing the draw, but it will be great to have him back,’ said the Blues midfielder.
‘We shouldn’t get carried away about him coming back; he is a player that was here for eight years, he won major trophies, he’s a big player with a big personality.
‘Obviously he had to move on but Chelsea continue, we have to win games, he’s coming here with his new club, Galatasaray, who we want to beat, so we shouldn’t get carried away about him coming back, we want to win the game.’
The game will be the first clash between the two sides since we met in the group stages of the 1999/2000 tournament, the Blues winning 1-0 at home and recording our biggest Champions League away win over in Turkey with a 5-0 victory.
Galatasaray secured their place in the knockout stage courtesy of a narrow 1-0 win over Juventus in their final group game, with Wesley Sneijder scoring the crucial goal, and the Dutchman, as Mikel explained, is just one more player we will need to keep tabs on.
‘They are a great team,’ he said. ‘Didier, Wesley, they have a good team and obviously they have Roberto Mancini who is trying to implement his philosophy and change the way they play.
‘It will be tough but it’s a game we’re looking forward to. It will be good to meet old rivals, who you have played against in the past, as well as old team-mates.’
Galatasaray supporters are renowned for their passionate backing and their ability to make life difficult for opposing players, but having appeared as a substitute when played Fenerbahce – Galatasaray’s local rivals – in 2008, Mikel is aware of the kind of atmosphere which will greet us.
‘We know what to expect from the fans,’ he explained. ‘They will be on top of their team and support them but it’s up to us to not listen to them and make sure we go out there and play our game.’
Mikel’s team-mate David Luiz, meanwhile, gave his own thoughts on today’s Champions League draw, with the Brazilian indicating playing the second leg at the Bridge could prove pivotal.
‘It will be hard for us,’ said the Blues defender. ‘You can see how important it is for Galatasaray when they play at home – they qualified in the last game, which they had to wait one more day to play because of the snow, and they beat a team like Juventus.
‘It’s good for us to play the second leg at home, but for sure you need to get a great result to qualify, that’s why we need to get a great result in the first game.
‘We have to think that we need to win that game because even if we draw 0-0 and they come here and score an away goal, it will become a very difficult game.’
With the two-legged tie against Mancini’s men set for February, our immediate attention turns to a busy festive period, and tomorrow’s match at the Stadium of Light in particular.
The game comes three days after our 2-1 win over Crystal Palace and six days ahead of a London derby at Arsenal, and Mikel is confident we can build on Saturday’s victory when we head north.
‘It’s another cup game, another tough one, and they’re coming thick and fast,’ he said. ‘We’re happy with the way we’re going, we’re picking up wins but we need to put in better performances.’