"We have enough power to beat Real Madrid," said striker Didier Drogba as he urged his Galatasaray AŞ colleagues to repeat last season's home victory over the Merengues.
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Whenever Real Madrid CF arrive in town the flashbulbs pop at a faster pace and pulse rates quicken too, but for Didier Drogba there is nothing daunting about facing the Merengues's lavishly assembled, star-studded team.
Drogba, after all, is a man who has seen just about everything in the UEFA Champions League – good and bad – and Tuesday's date with Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale and company in Istanbul is an occasion to savour and an opportunity to seize, rather than shrink away from. Not least when the memory of a victory over Madrid is fresh in the mind.
Madrid might have overcome his Galatasaray AŞ side 5-3 on aggregate in last season's quarter-finals but Drogba remembers the scare that Fatih Terim's men gave the visitors in a 3-2 second-leg success at the Ali Sami Yen Spor Kompleksi on 9 April. "Although we were eliminated, we got a win against them at home and I hope we will repeat this tomorrow because we have enough power to beat Real Madrid," said the Ivorian, who warmed up with his first goal of the Turkish Super League campaign in Friday's 1-1 draw with Antalyaspor.
Drogba's strike against Madrid last spring allowed Galatasaray briefly to dream – at 3-1 up with 18 minutes remaining – and such was the quality of his back-heeled finish that it featured among the top ten goals of last term's competition as selected by UEFA's technical study group.
Galatasaray, the 35-year-old adds, have every right to dream again, despite the fact Group B pits them against Italian title holders Juventus as well as Madrid. "When we compare the budgets of the clubs, there is no possibility for us to overtake Real Madrid and Juventus and get into the the next round but football is played on the field," he said. "We want to play better than our rivals and qualify for the round of 16."
The forward intends to do his bit to help. On target for Chelsea FC in their 2012 UEFA Champions League final triumph over FC Bayern München, Drogba already has an impressive overall tally in the tournament. "I have scored 40 goals in the Champions League in my career," he said.
"I hope I can improve on it this season but the important thing is what team does. If I score and we win the match or qualify for the next round, then that goal's important for me. But if you said to me, 'Galatasaray will win the Champions League but you won't score a single goal', I'd accept that straight away." Sadly for Galatasaray, such pacts do not exist; instead they will need Drogba at his very best for the tests ahead, starting with Madrid.