Drogba, who got the last laugh when Chelsea won 2-1, says he has a soft spot for the controversial star.
He said: "I know Balotelli and he's a nice guy, a funny guy. I like him very much because he's passionate and he loves football.
"He's a good character for the Premier League, like Cantona, who loves what he is doing. I respect him for that.
"You just have to see what he did in the last few weeks, scoring all those goals for his team, to understand what kind of player he is. I think he knows the league a bit more now, which has made things easier for him too."