Mateo Kovacic says there is no truth in Pepe’s ‘strange’ claims that Chelsea celebrated Porto draw in the Champions League and believes ‘it will not be easy’ for the club to reach the semi-finals.
Chelsea overcame Atletico Madrid to book their place in the quarter-finals, while Porto pulled off a huge upset to knock Juventus out of the European competition.
Rumours began to circulate last month that Thomas Tuchel’s squad celebrated as the Portuguese champions were named as their opponents on March 19, with Porto legend Paulo Futre ‘disgusted’ to learn about their response.
And Pepe, who was appointed Porto’s skipper last October, added more fuel to the fire as he weighed in on Chelsea’s reaction in the build-up to Wednesday’s first leg at Sevilla’s Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan Stadium.
‘It was public that Chelsea players celebrated the draw. But they also know that it will be a difficult game,’ the ex-Real Madrid defender told TNT Sports.
‘They know that we are a humble, hard-working, supportive team. In the spirit of our fans and what the coach demands of us as players, the work must always be there.
‘You can miss a pass, a ball control, a goal, but the work and the desire to win must always be present and that’s what we will try to demonstrate in the game in Seville.’
But Kovacic, who shared a dressing room with Pepe during their time at Real Madrid, insists he and the rest of Chelsea’s squad have the utmost respect for their opponents.
Asked if there was any truth to the claims, the Chelsea midfielder told reporters: ‘No. It’s strange to hear that from Pepe because I played with him for three years so I don’t know what he actually means with that or if he said it.
‘But of course not. I didn’t celebrate because when I played before at Real Madrid, I know that in these kind of stages there are no lucky opponents or bad opponents.
‘This is a tough draw, Porto is an amazing team which we saw against Juventus and they knocked them out so it’s a big opponent out.
‘They showed great character and a great team spirit and we need to show that as well tomorrow. ‘We need to try our best to go through but it will not be easy.’