Branislav Ivanovic praised his compatriot Nemanja Matic after the midfielder made his full Chelsea debut in Sunday’s FA Cup win over Stoke City.

Matic returned to Stamford Bridge earlier this month, signing from Benfica following an impressive two-and-a-half-year spell with the Portuguese side.

Having come on as a substitute during our 3-1 win against Manchester United last week, the Serbian played the full 90 minutes as we secured our place in the fifth round of the FA Cup, and Ivanovic was delighted to see his friend return to west London.

‘Nemanja played very well, he can still improve a lot but he’s new,’ said the Blues right-back.

‘He’s the one who’s leading the game, he asks for the ball, goes forward and defensively he’s improved a lot.

‘He can be very important for us, he’s signed for five years so his future is here and step by step he will become one of the most important players.

‘He was my best mate the last time he was here so, for me, it’s like having my brother back. We do a lot of things together, it’s very nice to have him here and it’s much easier for me as well.

‘He’s now a proper player, he’s come back after three years in Portugal where the people loved him there and he played very well, so he has more confidence and a different attitude.

‘When I saw him when he came back he was bigger and stronger, but that comes with playing regularly and having the confidence and motivation to improve. We have a lot of players who can play in that position and they are all different, it’s the manager’s job to choose the right one for the right game.’

Meanwhile, with the signing of Mohamed Salah from Basel now complete, Ivanovic, having played against the Egyptian on a number of occasions, offered his thoughts on our latest acquisition.

‘In the last two years we’ve played against him four times, he’s a great player who is very quick going forward with the ball and he’s the type of player we need to improve our team.

‘He’s young and it’s probably a good step for him to move forward. He was very good against us, he’s very smart with his movements.’

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