Mateo Kovacic says he is feeling good after returning from injury and looking forward to playing his part on Saturday, having won the Champions League three times at Real Madrid without appearing in the final.
The Croatian returned to action last week after a lengthy absence to come off the bench in the win over Leicester and was back in the Chelsea starting line-up at Aston Villa yesterday. Now he hopes to be in the best shape possible to help our pursuit of silverware when we face Manchester City in Porto this weekend.
‘It’s not easy to come back after more than one month, but I feel good,’ he said. ‘I felt good in training and against Leicester, yesterday maybe I missed a little bit of sharpness, had a little bit of tiredness, but I think it’s normal.
‘It was a tough season, a long season, it’s coming to an end and we feel a little bit tired, but we need to rest well today and tomorrow and be prepared for a big game, because it’s the biggest game in European football and we will be ready for that, for sure.’
This massive match against Man City could hold special significance for Kovacic if he is able to be involved. Despite being part of the Real Madrid side which won the Champions League in three consecutive years from 2016 to 2018, he didn’t make it off the bench for the Spanish side in any of those finals.
‘It would be huge for me to play in the final, it would mean a lot. Obviously I was three years at Madrid and unfortunately I didn’t play in a final. It’s never easy but I played my part in that team, which was if somebody was injured or could not play I was always there to help. That was my part there, at Chelsea it is a little bit different.
‘When I left Madrid I said I would try my best and work very hard to one time reach the final and play and now thanks to God we are here, we play a big game on Saturday, but in the end it’s just important that the team wins. It never matters who will be the main figure or the star of the game, the most important thing is just the team and I think at Chelsea we have shown that we are a family.
‘I played my part in Madrid. Not a big part like I’m maybe doing here now, and it’s different. It’s nice to reach a Champions League final with Chelsea and of course I came here to win trophies, which is the most important thing as Chelsea is a club that is known for winning trophies.
‘So it’s a huge achievement to get here, but we haven’t won anything yet. We have a big game on Saturday and we will do everything to win it.’
However, he says that not being able to play his part in those previous finals doesn’t take away from his pride at the victories in Spain, as it takes the contribution of every player for a club to win the Champions League.
‘All the medals are in a special place because it’s big to win a Champions League title. It’s never easy and I was in Madrid, won it three times, not playing in the finals, but still I was there and always the team wins.
‘Now, when some players maybe will not play on Saturday, they just need to know that this is a team sport and we win as a team and we lose as a team. In the end it doesn’t matter who will play.
‘Of course somebody will be disappointed and it’s normal, but in finals we need to be a team, all 26 players, to show everybody played his part. Maybe some bigger, some smaller, but this is a team sport and we will do our best to be a team, a family, on Saturday.’
Kovacic is one of just two players in the current Chelsea squad who has reached a Champions League final before, alongside Thiago Silva, although he feels this young Blues side won’t suffer from a lack of experience in Porto after coming so far over the past two seasons.
‘A few years ago I was always the youngest in my team and now I see so many young players at my side. It’s amazing that they experience something like this, at such a young age they are reaching a Champions League final.
‘I don’t think I need to help them with anything because they are motivated, they want to win, these young players already have experience. They’ve already reached FA Cup finals, they play for Chelsea, the second season in a row they are in the top four. The guys have experience and we are here to stay together and do our best to win on Saturday.’