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Return of the hunters

Schalke's Huntelaar and Galatasaray’s Drogba hope to show former clubs what they're missing.

Istanbul | Published:February 26, 2014 4:36 am

Galatasaray’s Didier Drogba will be full of emotions when he strides out to face former club Chelsea on Wednesday but Jose Mourinho knows the striker will be as clinical as ever on the field.

Klaas-Jan Huntelaar of Schalke has gone on to become one of the Bundesliga’s most prolific strikers since he was shunned at Real Madrid and will finally have a chance to show his former club what they are missing on Wednesday. The Champions League last-16 first-leg clash in Istanbul will be the first time the Ivorian will share the pitch with the Blues since scoring the winning penalty when Chelsea lifted the trophy in May 2012.

The 35-year-old, who media reports say could return to the London club as striker coach, is Chelsea’s record European scorer with 34 goals in 69 games. Including the spot kick in the Munich shootout and his header late in normal time, he has also bagged nine goals in nine domestic and European finals. His sizeable contribution to the club’s recent history is apparent from the number of posters of him still dotted around Stamford Bridge.

“It’s a strange feeling but, as we know him so well, we know that for him no friends during the game,” Chelsea boss Mourinho, who managed Drogba during his first spell at the club, told reporters. Drogba moved to Chelsea in 2004, Mourinho’s first season, and stayed after the Portuguese departed in 2007.


Mourinho, who rejoined Chelsea in the close season, has already experienced playing against Drogba in the Champions League. Both times Mourinho was on the winning side. Galatasaray manager Roberto Mancini was not too optimistic about his side’s fate. “I know Chelsea very well. For us it will be a very difficult game because Chelsea are used to playing these important games but we want to play a good game if it’s possible,” the Italian said. Mourinho is hoping Brazil defender David Luiz and Nigeria midfielder John Obi Mikel, who missed the 1-0 win over Everton on Saturday with minor injuries, will be fit for Wednesday.

Oscar is carrying a knock while January signings Mohamed Salah and Nemanja Matic are cup-tied.


Huntelaar’s Schalke 04 host the nine-times European champions on Wednesday in the first leg of their round-of-16 tie and the Dutchman, who has scored 51 goals in 89 league appearances for the German side, is looking forward to it as much as anyone.

“I worked very hard to return as soon as possible and now I am back, playing, helping the team and scoring goals,” the 30-year-old, who returned to action in mid-January after a four-month layoff caused by a knee injury, told the Spanish sports daily Marca.Real bought Huntelaar from Ajax for 27 million euros in January 2009 and he scored a respectable eight goals in 20 appearances, yet it failed to impress one of the world’s most demanding clubs.

Just eight months later, he was sold to AC Milan for 15 million euros.Huntelaar ended up spending a season at AC Milan, where he scored seven goals in 30 appearances, before joining Schalke in 2010. Coincidentally, Milan and Real met in the Champions League that season but Huntelaar was an unused substitute in both games.


“Madrid is a great club, with fantastic people,” he said. “I arrived during a difficult time for the club in every sense. “Despite everything I was focused on playing, on fighting for a place in the team, but they didn’t give me a chance and they left me no option.” Schalke, eliminated by Galatasaray at the same stage last season, have won six and drawn two of their last eight games but it would still be a huge upset if they could overcome Real, beaten semi-finalists in each of the last three season.

Real, on the other hand, scored 20 goals in the group stage, with a record nine coming from Cristiano Ronaldo, and they dropped only two points. They are unbeaten in their last 26 games in all competitions, a run stretching back to October. However, they have a very poor record in Germany with only one win in 25 previous visits and their 18 defeats included last season’s humiliating 4-1 loss to Borussia Dortmund in the semi-finals.

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