Branislav Ivanovic gives an update on his fellow Serbian international and one of the players we are aiming to overcome tonight – former Chelsea midfielder Nemanja Matic…
When Chelsea played Benfica in the Champions League quarter-finals 13 months ago, our former midfielder Nemanja Matic was a second-half substitute in the away game. He played the whole of the return leg at Stamford Bridge but was more supporting cast than starring role in the Lisbon side at the time.
Now, with Benfica in the hunt for three trophies this season, the 25-year-old is considered a contender for Portuguese player of the year, so the official Chelsea website turned to his fellow Serbian international, Branislav Ivanovic, for an update on one of the players the Blues are aiming to overcome tonight.
‘There is a lot of positive news about Nemanja Matic and the way he plays, he is improving a lot,’ reports Ivanovic.
‘When he was at Chelsea you saw he has the qualities to be a top player, but he needed practice, he needed to play and he decided the best option for him was to move to Portugal and to move to one of the biggest clubs there. At the moment he is playing maybe the best football of his career but I hope all these things do not help him to be successful in the final!’
Matic joined Chelsea in 2009 and with significant competition for places in our midfield that Double-winning season from the likes of Frank Lampard, Michael Essien, Michael Ballack and John Mikel Obi, he made three sub appearances.
He went on loan to Vitesse Arnhem in Holland the following season but in January 2011 became part of the deal that took David Luiz to Chelsea – remaining at his loan club for the rest of that season before moving south.
‘In Portugal he has improved his defensive ways a lot, and his aggressiveness,’ says Ivanovic.
‘And he has great vision forward. Benfica put trust in him last summer because Axel Witsel left for Zenit St Petersburg and Javi Garcia left for Man City as well – two key players for them last season – and Matic got the chance to play more and he used the chance. I speak to him quite often and he is happy the way he is playing and for the chance he gets from the coach.’
Benfica may have the chance for three trophies this season but Chelsea are determined to end their treble hopes in Amsterdam tonight, and make sure we have silverware to show from the season as well.
‘It is a very difficult game against an opponent who have been dominating the season in Portugal,’ notes Ivanovic. ‘They do well in the European competitions but they are always wanting to make it to the end and now they have the chance, it is massive for them – but I think it is more massive for us.’