It was assumed, when Didier Drogba’s last ever kick for Chelsea won the club the trophy that Roman Abramovich most craved, that not only would the Ivorian superstar never grace the Champions League again, but that he was actually prematurely exiting the big stage.
Yet it has to be said that, having already proved the first point wrong by signing for Turkish champions Galatasaray on loan from his Chinese club Shanghai Shenhua, Drogba is doing his best to show that those who thought he had more to offer at the top level of club football were also wrong.
Drogba reappeared on the Champions League stage in Galatasaray’s 1-1 home draw with Schalke in the last-16 first leg three weeks ago, along with that other ageing former winner of the tournament Wesley Sneijder, but so far his time at Gala has been underwhelming.
It is obvious that manager Fatih Terim is counting on Drogba for the Champions League alone – he didn’t start Friday’s 1-0 home loss to Gençlerbirliği – but it seems to me that the Ivory Coast star is, along with Sneijder, flattering to deceive and it could well be an experiment that doesn’t work out as hoped.
Of course, Drogba could turn in a monster performance to help Gala through to the last eight, but on the evidence of his time in Istanbul so far I wouldn’t bank on it and as Terim’s side travel to Germany for the second leg, I don’t see anything other than a home victory.
Schalke are 31/50 for the win with the draw at 31/10 and the Turks at 15/4, and I think the away side are up against it. Schalke had been struggling over the winter months after an impressive start to the season, which resulted in Jens Keller replacing Huub Stevens on a Rafa Benitez-style interim basis. And like Benitez, that change didn’t have the desired effect, with the upturn in results failing to happen and just a few weeks ago, Keller was thought to be clinging to his job just weeks into his tenure.
But Keller has, somehow, managed to turn things around. A draw at Mainz stopped the rot and after a securing a deserved draw in Istanbul three weeks ago, Schalke have won three games on the bounce to climb back into the Champions League places in the Bundesliga.
Those games have seen eight goals scored and included a fine 2-1 over Borussia Dortmund on Saturday, meaning not even the injury to Klaas-Jan Huntelaar can dampen the newly found good spirits too much.
And I’ll be taking the 5/4 they beat Galatasaray in a match that sees over 2.5 goals. There have been at least three goals in ten of Schalke’s last 12 games in all competitions, and in ten of their last 13 home games.
And they have the beating of Gala, who haven’t kept a clean sheet in 11 away Champions League games and have scored just eight times in seven games in this year’s competition, the fewest of any side in the knock-out stages.
Schalke are unbeaten in this year’s Champions League, and they can stay that way with a win that sees over 2.5 goals at 5/4.