Galatasaray test for Ronaldo's Madrid

Galatasaray test for Ronaldo's Madrid

Drogba threat looms for the fancied Galacticos

Galatasaray test for Ronaldo's Madrid

The wheel will have come full circle for Galatasaray forward Didier Drogba when he takes to the pitch for Wednesday’s Champions League quarterfinal first leg match at Real Madrid.

The Ivory Coast international, who turned 35 this month, made his debut in Europe’s elite club competition at Real’s Bernabeu stadium in September 2003 playing for Ligue 1 side Olympique Marseille.

Although he scored to put Marseille ahead in the 26th minute, goals from Roberto Carlos and Luis Figo and a double from Brazilian Ronaldo fired Real’s "Galacticos" to an easy 4-2 group stage victory.

“It will be very special for me, I will never forget that day,” Drogba was quoted as saying in Galatasaray's club magazine this week.  “It was very important for my career,” added the former Chelsea player, who will, however, have to fight hard to stay out of the giant shadow cast by Real’s shooting star Cristiano Ronaldo.

Drogba was Chelsea’s key performer on their run to a first Champions League triumph last season before quitting the London club for a stint in China and then moving to Turkey.

He struck the winning penalty in the final shootout against Bayern Munich having earlier kept Chelsea in the match with a crashing header two minutes from the end of regular time that levelled the score at 1-1.

Wednesday’s clash, the fourth between the clubs in UEFA competition, also pits Drogba against his former manager at Chelsea Jose Mourinho, who is bidding to lead Real to the 10th European crown that has eluded the club since 2002. The pair were together at Stamford Bridge from 2004 to 2007 and won Premier League titles in 2005 and 2006.
While Real have fallen in the semifinals the past two seasons, it is almost a quarter of a century since Galatasaray last reached the last four.

Alongside Drogba, the other heavyweight in their ranks is Dutchman Wesley Sneijder, who won the Champions League with Mourinho at Inter Milan in 2010. Their attacking trident is completed by Burak Yilmaz, who is joint top scorer in the competition with Real’s Ronaldo on eight goals.

Surprise package

Debutants Malaga have toppled European giants AC Milan and Porto on their way to the quarterfinals and have another former winner in their sights when they host Borussia Dortmund on Wednesday.

Coach Manuel Pellegrini and his players have propelled the Costa del Sol club to unprecedented success despite uncertainty over the commitment of their Qatari owner and cash-flow problems that prompted a ban from UEFA competition from next season.

Chilean Pellegrini has moulded a squad of experienced campaigners including Joaquin, Martin Demichelis, Jeremy Toulalan and Roque Santa Cruz into a highly efficient outfit, with promising youngsters like Isco providing a creative spark.

After beating seven-time European champions Milan 1-0 at the Rosaleda stadium on the way to topping Group C, Malaga dispatched 2004 winners Porto 2-0 in the last round on a festive night for local fans including Hollywood actor Antonio Banderas. They are brimming with confidence ahead of the first leg with Dortmund -- who won the Champions League in 1997 -- according to former Spain winger Joaquin.

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