Kovacic on his emotional return to Zagreb and warning his teammates to expect a difficult atmosphere

Mateo Kovacic is back to where it all began in his footballing career as Chelsea prepare to face their first club Dinamo Zagreb in our Champions League opener of the season.

Although it has been nine years since the midfielder last played here for them, Kovacic has never forgotten his Dinamo ties and has enjoyed his return so far, despite being inundated with requests tickets from friends and family wishing to be present for their reunion with the Zagreb team at the Stadion Maksimir in the Champions League.

“It’s really nice to be here,” Kovacic said, speaking to the media at Maksimir ahead of Chelsea’s training session at the stadium on the eve of our game against Dinamo. “It was a very good feeling to be in Zagreb, to see all the people I hadn’t seen for a long time.

“I’m really looking forward to tomorrow’s game, to see a full stadium. I’m a Dinamo fan of course, but now I’m on the opposite side.

“My family is coming, my friends are coming. Everyone is very excited, maybe even more excited than me, to come and see me in Maksimir. There were a lot of people asking for tickets, but I’m glad to have could get so many tickets for them.

The Croatia international also gave his verdict on Dinamo Zagreb’s current status after beating Bodo/Glimt to qualify for the Champions League group stage, while explaining how he explained the atmosphere to his fellow Blues fierce they can expect Maksimir for this game.

“Dinamo is growing day by day. Dinamo work phenomenally, I know that from my own experience, they play in Europe every year with us in the group stage. It will be a tough match tomorrow.

“I know that when Dinamo feel their fans are behind them and the stadium is full, they will play a very good game. I know that the atmosphere tomorrow will be excellent. I know what we expect tomorrow and Dinamo will be excellent.

“Everyone asks me about Dinamo because few of them have played Maksimir before. They saw Villarreal against Hajduk Split and they wondered if the atmosphere would be the same here in Zagreb. They know how We Croatians love football and how much we support our clubs so we know what to expect, a great Dinamo and even better fans.

Just before Kovacic spoke to the media, Thomas Tuchel had discussed new signing Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s chances of making his Chelsea debut in this match, and Kovacic spoke about what he expects the striker to bring to the team.

“He’s a great player, as we know. He’s scored goals everywhere, so we’re looking forward to having him in our team and he’ll be a huge asset to Chelsea because he’s a real striker and goalscorer, which who we have missed in recent years. We haven’t had that goalscorer who scores 20 or 25 goals a season, which you need to win the title.

“So I’m looking forward to having him in our team. He’ll be a big addition for sure, and he’s a proven goalscorer. For him, it’s normal to score goals and I hope that he will also do it here at Chelsea.

The midfielder finished by providing an update on his return to full fitness after missing the start of this season through injury, believing he is gradually approaching his peak despite a difficult campaign preparation.

“I’m better, my physical condition is improving,” he added. “I had knee problems after playing with the national team in pre-season, so it was a difficult pre-season for me, but now I’m healed and improving day by day. need to get my sharpness and fitness back, but training and matches are there for that, so I’m looking forward to getting better every day.

Kovacic on his emotional return to Zagreb and warning his teammates to expect a difficult atmosphere

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