Mateo Kovacic has dropped hints on what Chelsea can expect from Real Madrid
The Croatian midfielder played for the Real Madrid head coach before he joined Chelsea on-loan in 2018.
A lot of the narrative surrounding Chelsea’s Champions League semi final against Real Madrid later this month will surround the reunions of Thibaut Courtois and Eden Hazard to take on their former club.
Courtois departed Stamford Bridge in 2018 after a messy divorce as he returned to Spain following seven years with the Blues, three of them on-loan at Real’s city rivals Atletico.
Hazard meanwhile departed Chelsea a legend a year later for a fee that could total £130million.
Both have had differing careers with the Spanish giants. Courtois has made 119 appearances for Los Blancos and won La Liga twice, as well as scooping the Copa Del Rey title.
Hazard however has struggled badly with injury problems since he made his blockbuster move, with only 14 appearances this season and he has missed more games for the club than he has played in the last couple of years.
However, there is another player who will be reuniting with a former club when Chelsea take on Real and that is Mateo Kovacic.
The Blues midfielder signed for the club on a permanent deal in the summer of 2019 after a successful season on-loan at the club despite being under a transfer ban.
Kovacic made 109 appearances for Los Blancos having been brought to the Bernabeu by Rafa Benitez in 2015 from Inter Milan.
The arrivals of fellow Croat Luka Modric and Toni Kroos however pushed Kovacic down the pecking order in Madrid and he was allowed to leave the club on loan in 2018 to join the Blues, where he has remained ever since.
Kovacic will miss out for Chelsea in their FA Cup semi final tie with Manchester City and will be desperate to feature against his former club later this month.
Madrid set up their Champions League semi with Chelsea courtesy of a 3-01 aggregate victory over Liverpool in the quarters, while the Blues made it through 24 hours previously thanks to a 2-1 aggregate win over Porto.
Zinedine Zidane, who returned to Madrid as manager in 2019, was also in charge at the club when Kovacic was there. The relationship between the two was not quite as fruitful second time around as it was the first however.
But the Croat has previously explained what Zidane is like as a coach and that could benefit Chelsea in their upcoming semi final later this month.
In an interview with FourFourTwo last year, Kovacic said of Zidane: ““Zidane was similar to the way Frank Lampard is as a coach, and their approaches really suit me.
“That was the main reason for my dissatisfaction, but that’s football and we parted with no bad feelings.
“I came to Chelsea under Sarri, but I must say that Lampard is an exceptional manager. He has kept the character he had as a player in his personality as a coach, which has inspired all of us.
“He commits himself with everything he’s got. Training is always challenging and different from last season.”
Lampard is obviously no longer in charge of Chelsea but Kovacic had plenty of time to work with the former club-record goalscorer, who he says methods are similar to Zidane’s, so that can only help Thomas Tuchel prepare for what is set to be a blockbuster two-legged affair in the semi finals.