Chelsea: Thomas Tuchel cheers for Mateo Kovacic and evaluates Champions League chances

Thomas Tuchel celebrated Chelsea midfielder Mateo Kovacic

Thomas Tuchel has celebrated Chelsea midfielder Mateo Kovacic (Images: Getty)

Thomas Tuchel says Mateo Kovacic looks like a ‘prodigy’ in training as Chelsea prepare to face Real Madrid in the Champions League.

European champions Chelsea host Real Madrid for the first leg of their quarter-finals at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday night.

Croatia international Kovacic will be hoping to impress against his former side and help Chelsea move one step closer to winning the Champions League.

Kovacic has made nearly 200 appearances for Chelsea since joining from Real Madrid in the summer of 2018 and Tuchel was keen to emphasize the 27-year-old’s importance to his team.

Asked about Kovacic’s development at Stamford Bridge and if he is now one of Chelsea’s most important players, Tuchel said: “I think he’s still completing it.

“In some exercises he looks like a child prodigy in training. Today he had an excellent training session.

“He’s an amazing character, lovely guy, humble guy and so interested in the sport. He is so happy to train and deliver for the team. It’s a real pleasure.

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“Even at Real Madrid I was aware of his talent and following his career and I felt there was a next step to take and I was sure he had what it took.

“I’m very happy that he’s my player and that he’s playing a lot this season. He’s vital for us on and off the pitch. He knows what is important, what culture is needed at a big club.”

Chelsea’s preparation for their quarter-final game against Real Madrid was far from ideal as Tuchel’s side suffered a surprise 4-1 defeat by west London rivals Brentford on Saturday.

Asked about his squad’s reaction to the difficult Premier League defeat, Tuchel said: “We had a day off which was maybe important for us to digest. We talked about it, but no specific team talk.

“We spoke openly in a debriefing about what is normal. We set ourselves new goals, which is also common in sport.

Real Madrid defeated Paris Saint-Germain in the last round of the Champions League

Real Madrid beat Paris Saint-Germain in the last round of the Champions League (Image: Getty)

“We didn’t like what happened, it was very out of character for us and we see it as an exception to the rule. We were open to ourselves and allowed ourselves to focus on tomorrow’s game because that’s what we need.”

Real Madrid, meanwhile, go into the Champions League game 12 points clear at the top of La Liga after Saturday’s 2-1 win over Celta Vigo.

However, Carlo Ancelotti’s side suffered a demoralizing 4-0 defeat by Barcelona in last month’s El Clasico at the Bernabeu.

Chelsea have fond memories of the game against Real Madrid after beating the Spanish side in last season’s Champions League semi-finals.

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Chelsea FC Chelsea: Thomas Tuchel cheers for Mateo Kovacic and evaluates Champions League chances

Nate Jones

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