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Kovačić, Chelsea Book Final CL Quarters Ticket

March 17, 2021



Mateo Kovačić was rested at the weekend for Chelsea’s huge match vs. Atletico Madrid in London Wednesday night – kickoff at 4PM (ET).



The winner will fill the last quarterfinal Champions League spot while the loser goes home. Chelsea left Madrid a few weeks back with an all important away goal in a 1-0 victory against the La Liga leaders. It seemed as if Atletico would have been happy with a 0-0 result, but Olivier Giroud scored a fantastic bicycle kick to put Chelsea ahead in the tie.



Kovačić has been playing some of his best football since Frank Lampard was sacked at the end of January. Only Luka Modrić has booked his ticket to the quarters thus far. Will it be Kova or Vrsaljko? Vrsaljko is expected to start the match on the bench for Atletico.


Ante Kvartuč
Posted By: Ante Kvartuč 30 comments

  1. Soul Champ says:

    Kovačić is the X factor for Chelsea against Athletico.

    They need his ability to break the lines.

    It’s amazing how many opportunities Kovačić gets to establish himself as a real impact player.

    I pray he takes that moment in the final third when everyone expects him to make the pedestrian pass and explodes in the final third and unleashes a golasso!!

  2. Eric says:

    Kova needs a personal training session with Modric to take him to the next level. If he could learn how to develop a shot like Luka’s, or the instinct to drive towards goal once in a while, he would truly be world class.

  3. Slavonac from Canada Slavonac from Canada says:

    I listened to Jozak’s comments about Kovacic and I was hopeful that he’s right…I mean, he would know better than me so why doubt him? The issue I have in believing what Jozak said is something that sticks out for me….Jozak mentioned that we fans should have a better understanding of where Kovacic is at this point in his career and then even compare it to where Modric was at the same age. I agree…Kovacic has won 3 Champions League titles, La Liga title…and he’s still only 26. This really doesn’t comfort me very much because based on what I see and how Kovacic plays, he’s never really progressed as an “offensive” styled player and yet, he’s not a defensive styled player either…so what is he? A role player that can help maintain possession?

    I’ve watched Kovacic play several games for Chelsea and if we were to watch him alone…and only him…you might say he doesn’t make a lot of mistakes, he is incredibly skilled, he maintains possession very well, he can turn and transition the play, he’s fast, he has vision…..BUT does he really link that last pass very often? Is he himself comfortable around the net and trying to score goals (HELL NO)…

    other than receiving the ball from his defenders and making several back-passes/sideways-passes and the odd forward pass….I feel like he plays the game incredibly safe. If we are recoding stats and we reviewed his stats after the game, we’d probably say this guy has several touches on the ball, his passing accuracy is phenomenal, his possession is amazing…..BUT once you watch him play you are left wondering if this guy will ever take someone on in the final 3rd of the field…can he shoot effectively enough and score, can he lead and control the midfield…set the tempo of the game?

    I love Kovacic as a person and I like him as a player but I’d never choose him as one of my leaders or favourites. At this point in his career I feel Badelj was more valuable. At least we knew what we would get from Badelj…Kovacic is like Forrest Gump’s box of chocolates!

  4. Maminjo says:

    Yea I was about to post something similar. He’s neither offensive nor defensive enough to be deemed anything more than a good player.
    People want box-to-box midfielders now, who have the ability to play as a CDM and as a CAM.
    Kovačić does neither.
    So, I guess that makes him the opposite of a box-to-box midfielder? Lol.
    The reason why Modrić, Rakitić and Brozović were so valuable was that they could do both. Vlašić can at least do the offense part, and does track back defensively too (which also puts him ahead of Kova).
    I’m sure we’ll get a couple more prospects who can do both (like Moro or Sučić).
    I think Jozak might be oversimplifying things by just going by age.
    Kovačić needs to change the way he plays altogether.
    This has nothing to do with his age.
    With his skill set, he should be more than capable of threading nice passes into the opposing third. He’s also a pretty good ball winner with timely tackles… Makes me wonder why he’s not effective defensively.
    The skills are all there for both offense and defense.
    This is completely mental. I just don’t know what his motive is. Does he have some sort of mental issue where he gets anxiety by trying to play more offensively? Or is he simply unwilling to do so? Maybe he likes being a stat stuffer and doesn’t want to affect his pass completion percentage? I have no idea.
    This is also on the coaches too. But it’s odd that none of these coaches can get to him, despite ALL of them acknowledging the issues that Kovačić has.
    He’s 27 soon, so I don’t really care either way. Vlašić looks great, and guys like Moro, Majer, Bašić and Sučić are developing nicely. One of them will blow up and make their way into our starting eleven ahead of Kovačić.. and they’re all younger players who are taking advantage of the potential they have.

  5. ARMADA87 says:

    Well put, Slavonac.
    I respect Romeo a lot too, but on this point I agree with your take, specifically his comparison to Luka when he was in his early to mid 20’s. Sure, Mateo has a lot of credentials/trophies on his resumes, but was he ever ‘the guy’ (or one of the guys) on any of his teams? I’d venture to say, absolutely not (maybe,kinda, sorta with Inter – but they never won anything with him). Was he a piece of the machine? Absolutely.
    I think the comparisons to Modric are laughable. Let’s compare Kovacic present day (26 y/o) who’s about to go with us to the Euro vs. Luka Modric, 22 y/o, at Euro 2008. Back in 2008, Luka was already running our midfield and was the ‘straw that stirred the drink’. He had that big PK for us during the Poland game, played fantastic vs. the Germans and played well vs. Turkey, although he did miss his PK in the shootout. Point being, he was a big part of what we did in that tournament. Heck, he made team of the tourament and we were eliminated in the QF’s. That tells you something.
    Then you have present day Mateo, 26 y/o about to go into his 4th major tournament with the repka and he… potentially might not be starting for us. He only started one game in the 2018 WC (which was a meaningless game for us) and I wouldn’t of classified him as a ‘top performer’ for us during the tournament? And barring him going into the form of his life, don’t see him becoming a top performer for us at the Euro this summer.
    I’m not some Kovacic hater and I sincerly hope he proves me wrong and goes to the next level next summer, but I think we can put a fork in all the ‘next Modric’ talk for him. That ship has sailed.

  6. Eric says:

    Lets face it…there may never be a “next Modric”.

  7. Maminjo says:

    Yea their game is completely different.
    Kovačić is a Spaniard at heart, whose preference is to play Tika Taka.
    Just dominate possession, with hundreds of safe passes, while not really running much, edging closer to the closer toward goal in a slow and safe manner.

  8. Slavonac from Canada Slavonac from Canada says:

    Armada, I’m not a Kovacic hater also. I really want to see him at his best…if not for us then for him but we see what we see and I just don’t imagine he will somehow change his mentality or approach to his game.

    Eric, I never ever expect or even “hope” for another Modric. I love this game and part of that means that I appreciate all different types of players. Part of this game is watching how many different types of payers perform in the same positions while achieving the same or similair results….its like an art form!

  9. Maminjo says:

    You don’t need another Modrić to be as successful.
    Modrić was great because he covered for a lot of flaws and gaps in our lineup (mainly our defenders).
    But if we’re starting to churn out capable CBs who can defend and make a proper pass (like Ćaleta-Car or Gvardiol) then having a Modrić is a bonus.
    I’m perfectly fine with having a trio of Brozović or Vlašić types in our midfield.
    We are always good for producing creative central midfielders. It’s the other positions where we need to catch up.

  10. Slavonac from Canada Slavonac from Canada says:

    hahaha…Maminjo…you’re bang on here …”dominate possession, with hundreds of safe passes, while not really running much, edging closer to the closer toward goal in a slow and safe manner”

    Its really quite boring to watch the very repetitive and painfully slow buildup…waiting to catch someone on the other team to shift or slip out of position and then thread a pass….lose possession, re-gain possession…and then back to the exact same safe passes and not advancing the play!

    kinda like watching the harlem globetrotters doing a drill that looks sophisticated but then there’s no ending to the drill!

  11. Maminjo says:

    We actually have the skillset to play this way though.
    Modric and Brozovic have that technical skill, and you’d probably have to start a forward trio of Perisic, Krama and Brekalo (no room for Rebic in tika taka).
    Caleta-Car and Gvardiol could be those smooth passing CBs, and Vrsaljko and Sosa on the fullback positions.
    Let’s do it!
    Time to emulate 2010 Spain, just to see what we have in Kova!

  12. Slavonac from Canada Slavonac from Canada says:

    Yes I have noticed our players are all relatively skilled. One thing I will say about Croatian soccer players…even their most un-skilled players have all the basic skills 100%!

    something that surprises me a bit is how well they can work their way out of tough positions with some very quick passes, in tight areas! They don’t usually panic!

  13. Eric says:

    Yes we can, and will be successful after Modric retires. Thankfully we have all kinds of skilled players, and hopefully they will come together at the right time and place, like our boys did in 2018.

    Kova is improving, and he can be a valuable asset to us in the future. Even though there may not be a starting position for him in our Repka right now, I’m sure he will prove himself one day.

  14. Anonymous says:

    They really are the pride
    of London

  15. CiganJeCigan says:


  16. Soul Champ says:

    Kovačić exploding toward goal defenders on their heels ..
    please take one more dribble and drive the ball into a low corner .. of course NOT!

    Pedestrian pass to Odoi who couldn’t score to save his moma.

    We have Brozovic and Vlašić to compliment Kovačić.

    Modrić will never be replaced by one player.

    All three will still have us dominate the middle.

  17. Maminjo says:

    Hopefully Modrić sticks around for 2022 World Cup.
    Then hopefully he pulls a Zlatan and continues to be effective at age 39 too, and we keep him for Euro 2024… Until we can see what we have with guys like Sučić and the rest of the youth.

  18. Mali Ante says:

    I agree with the majority of takes on Kova. It’s incredibly frustrating to watch him play as he has the skill set but lacks aggression and confidence while on the ball. He gets pushed off so easily that it’s tough to watch. Luka while small in stature has incredible lower body strength and balance. Once in a lifetime player and arguably playing his best soccer today…like a fine wine.

    Sadly I don’t think Kova ever becomes that confident player but I hope I’m proved wrong.

    Either way we will make another run this Euro’s. I think if we finish second in the group we avoid the group of death no?

  19. Dannyj says:

    I think luka would play till 40 if he can especially letting others do more running for him
    Official player coach
    He’s got his whole life to rest after that;)

    Keep him on that good growth hormone! Ask Messi for his source;)

  20. Dannyj says:

    I know Kova has teased us before but with the two goals against Portugal and man of the year in Chelsea last year and with playing for a coach that really seems high on him this year
    Maybe like a cheating spouse… he has changed;)

    There will never be a luka but maybe finally Kova is starting to assert himself more

    It was ante who called him out at the start of the season i Believe

    Once again, we are willing or shaming a Croat player and making the difference on this site;)

  21. Mixed grill says:

    I watched the game last night and indeed Kova is just afraid to go forward. Is the message not getting through to him? He will go another season without a goal. For such a gifted player it makes no sense. Maybe we should send him a petition.

  22. Eric says:

    All valid points about Kova, and I agree with most. Too bad he didn’t go for the shot when he made that nice run into the box. However, watching last night’s game…I think Kova did exactly what Tuchel wanted. Solid defensively, very composed and calm against a pressing Atletico. He played well linking the play from the back. Partnered well with Kante, who was tasked with pushing the play forward more.

  23. Eric says:

    Mateo Kovacic’s game by numbers vs Atletico:

    100% long ball accuracy
    93% pass accuracy
    89 touches
    10 duels won (most)
    5 take-ons (most)
    5 final third entries
    2 fouls won
    1 chance created
    1 shot
    1 tackle

    Controlled the midfield.

  24. Maminjo says:

    @Mali Ante
    No. If we finish third, then we avoid it lol.
    Such a stupid 24-team format… Where finishing third will pair you with a weaker opponent than finishing first or second.

  25. Maminjo says:

    These coaches are all trying to get him going, like he has mental health issues.
    Every time a new coach comes in, they immediately throw full support and positive comments toward Kovačić, lol.
    Isn’t this a little weird?
    I don’t recall Lampard and Tuchel doing this with other players.

  26. Markus says:

    If we come first in our group we face second place from the France, Portugal, Germany and Hungary group. If we come second, we play second in the Spain, Poland, Sweden, Slovakia group. But the thing is let’s say we play Poland or Sweden and win, we’d be up against the first place team from thats France group in the quarterfinals. Unfortunately finishing third is the only way to escape that group haha. Would rather finish top 2 than 3rd though.

  27. Poglavnik says:

    Anyone but France or Portugal.

  28. ARMADA87 says:

    @ Poglavnik
    Yes, but look at their teams and the youth coming up for both NT’s. They’re going to be in our way, in one way or another probably (qualification group or at major tournament) for a while. We need to beat them at least once and get this bogeyman off our back. Nations League would of been a good avenue for that, but we saw how that turned out. We need just one win just so the team psyche is “yeah, we can beat them” whereas now, with some players, it might be “can we beat them?”.

  29. Anonymous says:

    I really think Kovacic was brainwashed by Zidane

  30. Stari says:

    Kovacic is a midfielders midfielder. He is playing his role perfectly at Chelsea. look at the stats posted by Eric. comparing him to Modric is unfair as Modric is one of the best mids to ever play the game. Kova is more similar to Boban. A solid, reliable, player that is well above average. He has proven he can play with elite players on elite teams. a great option for our national team. he’s the type of player that can keep you hanging in there in those tight games against other good teams. we all know nogomet is a game of fine margins. at this point I’d say Kova is on the cusp of either being a great player or an average one, it all depends on how successful both Chelsea and Hrvatska will be over the next 2-4 years.
    Bog i Hrvati

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