Nemanja Matic is quickly settling back into life as a Chelsea player following his arrival from Benfica earlier this month, and the Serbian is looking forward to tonight’s London derby against West Ham United, where the Blues will be looking to record an eighth consecutive victory in all competitions.
Having featured as a late substitute during our 3-1 win over Manchester United 10 days ago, the midfielder was handed a start, his first for the club, in Sunday’s FA Cup victory over Stoke City.
Deployed alongside Frank Lampard as one of the two deep-lying midfielders, Matic produced an assured, confident display, catching the eye with his composure on the ball and intelligent distribution.
‘I think we played a good game, I played my first 90 minutes at Stamford Bridge so of course I’m very happy about that, but the most important thing was to win the game,’ he tells the official Chelsea website.
‘I tried to do my best and my team-mates helped me a lot during the match, but I felt very comfortable on the pitch so I was pleased.
‘This already feels like home to me. I know most of the players here so maybe that’s helped me, and I feel confident because the manager showed his faith in me by playing me for the full game against Stoke.’
Matic, whose main responsibilities are to help break up opposition attacks and ensure possession is won back as soon as it’s been surrendered, produced a couple of passes in the final third during Sunday’s match which suggest he could also have a positive impact higher up the pitch.
‘I always try to push the team forward,’ he says. ‘If I have to pass backwards of course I’ll do that but, for me, the first objective when I get the ball is to play forward.
‘With my former coach [Jorge Jesus], and now Mourinho, they have both asked me to try to play good football and to not be scared when I have possession, so I want to use their advice.
‘Defensive midfielders are very important in terms of providing balance. You always need to be positioned in between the defence and attack. Also, if a team like to play on the counter it’s a role where you have to get on the ball early and help the team break.’
Jose Mourinho’s side approach tonight’s game in a rich vein of form, unbeaten since exiting the Capital One Cup midway through December and having conceded just one goal this month.
West Ham, who are struggling at the wrong end of the table, are equally in need of the three points, but with local pride at stake Matic certainly isn’t looking for any extra incentive.
‘I like playing in derbies,’ says the Serbian. ‘For me, playing against a local rival is a big motivation to win and I’m really looking forward to the game.
‘The Premier League is very fast and has some of the best players in the world so you have to be focused and concentrate for 90 minutes if you are to be successful.’
Away from the field of play, Matic is gradually finding his feet back in the capital, with one team-mate in particular playing a pivotal role in enabling him to settle.
‘It’s a nice city. During my first spell here I was alone but this time I have my wife with me and my son, who is three,’ he explains. ‘My wife is pregnant at the moment so in three months’ time we will have another baby, a girl.
‘Branislav Ivanovic is a top man and his family are good people. When I first arrived he opened the doors of his house to me so I’m very grateful. I really like him and it’s very important to have somebody that can help you when you need something.
‘We live about 15 minutes away from each other, my wife and his wife are good friends so I’m very happy about that as it’s a big help for her.’
You can listen to full live commentary of tonight’s game on Chelsea TV from 7.45pm.