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Mata: We're all behind Rafa

Juan Mata has mounted a passionate defence of Rafa Benitez ahead of Chelsea's Europa League semi-final against Basel.

Last Updated: 02/05/13 at 20:44 Post Comment

Juan Mata: Comes out in defence of Rafa Benitez ahead of Basel clash

Juan Mata: Comes out in defence of Rafa Benitez ahead of Basel clash

The interim manager is within 90 minutes of delivering the Champions League holders' second successive European final appearance, and his side take a 2-1 lead into Thursday's home leg.

But the build-up to the second leg has been overshadowed by Jose Mourinho's strongest hint yet he could return to Chelsea this summer, and Benitez was forced to field persistent questions about his one-time rival at his pre-match press conference.

Asked for a player's perspective on Mourinho's possible return, Mata instead chose to talk up the qualities of the man still in possession of the manager's job.

He said: "Rafa has had great seasons at every club he has been at. Since he came here, he's tried to do his best.

"For me and the rest of the players, he's a great manager. We are fighting for third place in the league and with a chance to win a trophy.

"So maybe the season in the end will look good for us and maybe for Rafa. And that will be because of the job he has done.

"Whether he is given more time or not doesn't depend on me. All I can say is that we are all working really, really well with Rafa."

David Luiz's last-minute winner in Switzerland means Basel must score twice at Stamford Bridge to stand any chance of reaching this month's Amsterdam final.

But Murat Yakin's side managed just that on their last trip to London, when they left Tottenham with a 2-2 draw, and Mata is wary of the visitors' attacking threat.

"It's going to be a dangerous game," he said. "Even though we have two goals away, a great result, it's that kind of game that can be very risky.

"If we don't go into the game thinking about winning, thinking about defending well, thinking about trying to win again, it's going to be difficult.

"We still know we have to fight if we're going to be in the final. We got a great result in Switzerland, but now we have to play another 90 minutes and I'm sure they're not going to give up. They're a team who try until the end. It will be tough, for sure."

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till reckon Chelsea will go for Khedira as back up for Matic. I think it will turn out to be quite a Mourihno-y window: We'll see the squad players and youth in action pre-season, say things like well, we need not buy anybody and then the club will bid £60m for Pogba and send everybody on loan.

tk421
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would love to be a fly on the wall at the meeting between Milner and Rodgers. I don't know if flies can count, but if they can then I would be counting the number of times Rodgers used the word outstanding in his attempts to get Milner to sign.

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ell, it wouldn't be a summer without Arsenal fans fretting over losing a key player, and United throwing their weight around and muscling in on transfer deals which are (apparently) near to completion. If we can't be entertained by the football on the pitch, let's enjoy the silly off-pitch soap opera of the transfer season. Hurrah!

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