Chelsea midfielder Mateo Kovacic has played down the significance of Antonio Rudiger’s training ground bust-up with Kepa Arrizabalaga and insists the incident has been ‘left behind’, with the squad fully ‘focused’ on their Champions League quarter-final clash with Porto.
Kepa took exception to a mistimed challenge from Rudiger the morning after Chelsea’s 5-2 defeat to West Brom and the pair had to be pulled apart as tempered flared at Cobham.
It’s claimed there was a ‘pushing match’ and a ‘heated’ argument between the two players before Thomas Tuchel ordered Rudiger to make an early return to the dressing room to avoid any further confrontation.
Rudiger apologised to the Spain goalkeeper soon after their altercation and Tuchel praised the defender for his ‘brave’ decision to clear the air with his team-mate ahead of Tuesday’s first leg with Porto in Seville.
Asked about the scuffle involving Rudiger and Kepa, Kovacic told reporters: ‘It’s not a big deal.
‘It’s just competition in the dressing room and we spoke about it, all cleared so it’s all done.
‘We are a strong group and these things happen in a family and in strong groups.
‘We accept it, we leave it behind, we clear it and we are all focused together for the game tomorrow.’
Kovacic believes Porto sent out a warning to Chelsea and the rest of Europe when they dumped Juventus out in the last round.
‘They knocked out a big opponent so they showed the togetherness and great spirit.
‘It’s a difficult draw. Porto is a good team which we saw already against Juventus,’ the Croatian added.
‘It will be a tough game like every game in the Champions League but we are prepared for it and tomorrow is a big day for us.
‘It will be a tough game because they fight together and they stick together.
‘I’m sure the whole team is focused.’