SAN JOSE, Calif.—This week is a reunion of sorts for Didier Drogba and Peter Cech.
The long-time Chelsea duo spent nine seasons together in West London, a period that saw the club win four Premier League titles, four FA Cups, three League Cups and the UEFA Champions League. Off the field, they developed a friendship that’s stood the test of time (and Cech’s transfer to one of Chelsea’s biggest rivals).
On Thursday, when Arsenal take on the best MLS has to offer in the AT&T MLS All-Star Game (7:30pm ET; ESPN, UniMás, RDS, TSN), the long-time friends and teammates will find themselves in an unfamiliar position: opponents.
“Trash talk? No, no, no,” Drogba said, following Wednesday's All-Star training. “We don’t do it because he’s in preseason, but we think about it and it’s going to be a good game.”
“He’s a legend, and he’s a very good friend,” the Montreal Impact forward added. “We’ve been talking about this game. He told me he was coming. We have a group chat with a few other Chelsea players and we’ve been talking and making a few jokes about that game. I only hope that I will score.”
It’s not the first time the pair have played in the MLS All-Star game. They were teammates a decade ago when Chelsea travelled to Chicago during their 2006 preseason tour of the United States and lost to the All-Stars 1-0 on a goal by Dwayne de Rosario.
“My experience with the All-Star Game is pretty simple: one game, one loss,” Drogba said. “The manager at the time [Jose Mourinho] was not happy with that result, but it was a process and one of the big games of our preseason. It was a tough game, I remember.”
He’ll be looking to replicate that result – and perhaps even put one past Cech himself – on Thursday, though he knows from experience that scoring on his friend is easier said than done: “There’s not many tricks to score against him and he knows how to block my shots, but I’m ready for him.”
Working in Drogba’s favor is his record against Arsenal: The Ivory Coast legend averaged nearly a goal per game against the Gunners, and while he only played for the Blues during his EPL career, he doesn’t hold Cech’s decision to swap West for North London against his old friend.
“It is tough [seeing him in Arsenal colors] but he has to do what he has to do,” Drogba said. “I think he’s doing what’s best for him and for his career but people respect him at Chelsea a lot for everything he’s done for the club and what he brings to the team. So no hard feelings.”
Perhaps that will change if Cech helps lead Arsenal to an elusive Premier League title at the expense of the club they duo helped transform into one of the world’s best.
“He’s a leader, and you can see that when he came to Arsenal the team conceded less goals,” Drogba said. “It’s not only because of him because of his winning mentality, his attitude. I think if they lost the league last season, it’s because of his injury. He’s one of the best goalkeepers in the world. For me, he’s the best, for others, he’s one of the best.”