• Blues manager says Ivorian would deserve great reception
• But he says his side are Champions League outsiders
José Mourinho is hoping Monday's Champions League knockout draw pairs Chelsea with Galatasaray to offer Didier Drogba a return to the club with whom he enjoyed a glittering eight-year spell.
The Ivorian's last involvement as a Chelsea player was to slide the decisive penalty beyond Manuel Neuer in the Bayern Munich goal to seal the club's first European Cup in 2012. The veteran forward scored against Mourinho's Real Madrid in Istanbul last season and set up Wesley Sneijder's winner against Juventus to progress into the knockout stage at the Italians' expense on Wednesday, qualification which opens up the possibility of the 35-year-old returning to Stamford Bridge.
"He [Drogba] deserves to come here," said Mourinho when asked whether he would welcome facing a forward he admitted had almost given him "a heart attack" last season. "He deserves a reception here even better [than mine], because he deserves much more than me. He deserves to come here and get the reception I got against Hull City [on the opening weekend], but for Didier double or three times better and bigger than I had. I know what I felt. I think he deserves that. So, yes, Galatasaray is difficult. Very difficult. But I'd like Didier to be back here and feel what I felt."
Chelsea won their group – they beat Steaua Bucharest on Wednesday – and will therefore be paired with either Galatasaray, Milan, Olympiakos, Zenit St Petersburg or Bayer Leverkusen in the next round. "Of course we look to the top ones that won the groups, and you see there the main candidates to win the competition, the favourites to win the competition," said Mourinho. "But in the second position we have difficult teams. We have champions.
"You have the Russian champions, the Greek champions. A German team, Leverkusen, is always very difficult. The Turkish champions with King Didier, and Milan are Milan. They only won it seven times … so it's hard. When we go to the knockout phase, things become very tactical one way, and very emotional in another way. It will be always difficult. The fact the second game is at home means nothing.
"But, as I said before, there are teams in this moment in better condition to win the competition, or at least to be considered favourites. It's easy to understand that Bayern Munich is a champion – they have the same team, they played three Champions League finals in four years. You have Barcelona, champions three times in the last five or six years. Real Madrid have the same players plus Gareth Bale, and reached three semi-finals in three years. So it's easy to understand where the favourites are.
"We have to grow up, step by step. We go into new matches now for some of my players. Some of them haven't played any games in the knockout stage of the Champions League before – they played in the group and the Europa League – so it will be a different scenario for some of them. Let's go for the last 16. If we win, we go into the quarter-final and, with only eight teams, we can think a different way. I do not have targets, but we did have one: not to win the Europa League again. That target is done. Now we have to do the best we can in the Champions League."