Ineligibility restricted Nemanja Matic to a watching brief on Wednesday night, so it is no surprise the midfielder is looking forward to being a little closer to the action later today.
As a result of having already played in the Champions League for Benfica this season, including in a home victory against Paris Saint-Germain in December, Matic has not been able to represent his current side in Europe. With this in mind, the official Chelsea website caught up with our Serbian to find out what he got up to while the majority of his teammates were in France.
‘I stayed here and I trained for two sessions with the Under-21s,’ reports Matic. ‘I tried to do the same job like I do with the first team. I tried to be focused but as you know I like to play football and I like to play Champions League games.
‘Of course it is not easy for me to stay at home and watch the game on TV, but when I came here I already knew I couldn’t play and I had to live with this and make sure I was 100% focused for the games I could play.’
As a Benfica player that played twice against PSG in the group stages, Matic says he was able to pass on some advice to his current colleagues about what to expect from the French champions and he believes that, despite the first-leg deficit, we have a chance of progression because of the depth of quality within our ranks.
That view is perhaps enhanced by Matic’s take on Wednesday’s defeat, seen through the eyes of a spectator, and not a participant.
‘I watched it at home with my family,’ he says. ‘It’s different watching on TV. When we scored I was so happy and in that moment I felt like a fan.
‘What I can say about the game is that we controlled it until maybe 60 minutes when we conceded the second goal. We played well overall but after the second goal it was very difficult for us.’
Before we can consider the prospect of any sort of turnaround in Europe we must return to winning ways domestically following last weekend’s setback at Crystal Palace. It was against Stoke, today’s opposition at Stamford Bridge, that Matic made his full debut for the club back in the fourth round of the FA Cup. Reflecting on his time in west London since then, the midfielder is able to draw some conclusions not only from that 1-0 victory in January but his experiences more broadly as we go for three more points today.
‘When you come to a different league, and especially the Premier League because it’s probably the best in the world, you always learn something and you always have to improve something. In Portugal they don’t play like they do here. It is different football and you have to adapt to that.
‘Every game is different so it doesn’t matter if we have already played Stoke at home. We expect another hard game because they have a good team. We are playing at home though and we have to use that to our advantage. We have to find a way to play our game like we played against Arsenal – playing good football, enjoying our time on the pitch and scoring goals.’
– Sky customers can watch Chelsea TV’s Pre-Match at the Bridge show completely FREE. Join Ben Andrews and Jason Cundy from 4.30pm on channel 421.