Branislav Ivanovic defends sluggish and overweight Aleksandar Mitrovic

Newcastle Utd - Gate

The Serbian defender has come to the defence of his international team-mate.

Chelsea defender Branislav Ivanovic has come to the defence of Serbian national team-mate Aleksandar Mitrovic, despite the fact that he labelled the Newcastle star sluggish and overweight to Novosti.

Serbia have had a torrid time of it in recent months and years, with an impressive and able squad crippled by internal divisions and poor performances on the pitch.

The eastern European nation were humbled 4-1 by rivals Czech Republic in an international friendly on Friday night, compounding the fact that they have also missed out on Euro 2016 qualification.

Mitrovic is a controversial character and was again booked in the clash on Friday, adding to his poor disciplinary record since joining Newcastle from Anderlecht in the summer.

Ivanovic has tried to protect the bustling forward from media criticism, but admitted that the St James’ Park number nine is not at his best currently.

"He always seems sluggish and overweight,” Ivanovic said to Novosti.

“He needs a goal, support and should not be criticised too much. The team, not the media, will tell him what to do.”

Ivanovic himself has started to feel his age this season and has been identified as one of the weak links in a Chelsea team that has imploded since becoming champions.

Mitrovic has a lot to prove at Newcastle, with a sizeable transfer fee to justify and a proud track record of top-class number nines at the Tyneside club.

Register for NEWCASTLE UNITED team updates

Register for CHELSEA team updates

Register for HITC Sport - Daily Dispatch