White Hart Lane

Next Game

Tottenham v Chelsea

Thursday, 01 January 2015, 17:30

Barclays Prem

St. Mary's Stadium

Last Game

So'ton 1 - 1 Chelsea

Sunday, 28 December 2014, 14:05

Barclays Prem

Benitez hails Mata influence

Rafael Benitez believes the influence of Juan Mata could be decisive in Chelsea's end the season.

Last Updated: 17/04/13 at 21:06 Post Comment

Juan Mata: Backed by Rafael Benitez

Juan Mata: Backed by Rafael Benitez

Rafael Benitez believes the influence of Juan Mata could be decisive in Chelsea's bid to end the season with silverware and a return to the Champions League.

Chelsea have an eighth and final opportunity for a trophy remaining - in the Europa League, where they meet Basle in the semi-finals - but first the focus is on securing a top-four finish in the Barclays Premier League and qualifying for the tournament they won in 2012.

The west London derby at Fulham on Wednesday night is the first of two Premier League matches this week which could see the Blues consolidate their place ahead of fifth-placed Tottenham, over whom they currently have a game in-hand.

While Fernando Torres and Demba Ba have struggled to be prolific, Mata's record of 18 goals this season is flabbergasting for a player who featured for Spain at Euro 2012 and the Olympics and it is his consistency which makes him a contender for player of the year.

"Juan Mata is scoring goals and giving assists," said Benitez, who was 53 today.

"When you have a second striker scoring 18 goals and giving 29 assists, it's like a striker.

"If you analyse his performance in the whole season, he could be one of the players of the year, for sure.

"When you play in a team that plays one game a week, you can be good, but Juan has played two games a week for months and he's doing really well.

"He's a very good professional and his numbers are fantastic."

The 24-year-old's brilliance has been in evidence throughout the campaign, but he also mesmerises his team-mates.

YouTube footage of Mata humbling Raul Albiol in training with the European and world champions shows their Spanish team-mates astonished by the Chelsea man's quick feet.

He has done it regularly at the Blues' training base, including on the eve of the Fulham encounter, but Benitez declined to reveal the victim.

Instead Benitez focused on the attributes which make players like Mata such coveted talents.

"Game intelligence. That is the key," Benitez said.

"He's very clever, he finds space and his quality is very good.

"He has the vision. He can score goals, he can pass. That is game intelligence.

"That's the reason why these players are more expensive. It's more difficult to find them.

"Gianfranco Zola was this type of player, not too big but game intelligence to get into the box."

Mata plays in the centre of Chelsea's three-man second offensive line, as Benitez describes it, behind a central striker, Torres or Ba.

The strike pair have just two league goals in 2013 - both for Ba - but Benitez refuses to criticise the duo.

Torres has belatedly found form in the Europa League, scoring four times in three games, but last found the net in the Premier League in December, against Aston Villa.

The £50million striker is set to start at Craven Cottage and return to the bench for Sunday's return to his former club Liverpool, with next week's Europa League semi-final first leg in Switzerland in mind. Ba is ineligible in Europe.

With players like Mata, Eden Hazard, Oscar and others - Victor Moses and Yossi Benayoun - performing well, Benitez has no intention of altering formation.

"I don't know how many goals they've scored but sometimes - and I've been talking about this for months - it's more the contribution they make to the team, not just the goals," Benitez said.

"I'm quite happy in the way things are going on, because both strikers are doing well now.

"If you have Mata scoring 30 goals this year and the strikers can give assists, I will be really pleased."

Frank Lampard has again been a key figure for Chelsea this term, but the midfielder was an unused substitute in Sunday's FA Cup semi-final loss to Manchester City at Wembley.

The England international could be in the final months of his Chelsea career, with his contract expiring and the prospects of an extension uncertain, and is three short of overtaking Bobby Tambling as the club's record goalscorer.

"The main thing is the team," Benitez said.

"I would like to see Frank breaking the record, for sure. (But) if I pick him it's because I think that he's a good player.

"I'm sure he can score goals. Hopefully he can score more than two and then he will break the record.

"We will be happy, he will be happy and that means maybe we can win more games. I think he will do it."


Get £160 from your free £10 bet with Sky Bet if Chelsea win 3-0


Related News

Most Commented

Readers' Comments

W

e have the personnel. The trick is keeping them fit. Carrick and Blind have missed large chunks of the season, while the defence has been one muddled mess of intermittent stooges, all coming and going at various intervals thus far. We may be just short of title winning quality, but we're half way through. An injury crisis to either of the top two could change things. Optimistic, yes, but not unrealistic.

HarryBoulton
One Point And One Conclusion For United

P

arish is the man to blame for this shambles. Pulis must be chuckling into his left over turkey sandwich. I pray this doesn't mean the Neil Warnock media machine will kick in now and he'll be back on the telly box.

magicfuller
Warnock sacked by Palace

W

e almost found a new way to lose, just when I thought it was getting boring Giroud does that. Although Arsenal are deservedly called 'soft' the entire midfield is out injured. Still must admit MU are managing to win despite a similar raft of absentees. Think the Gunners have good players but poorly coached.

gettalong
Wenger: Giroud deserved red

Footer 365

Premier League: Sam Allardyce accuses referee of guessing wrongly over disallowed Alex Song goal

Sam Allarydce criticised referee Neil Swarbrick for disallowing a goal after West Ham were defeated 2-1 by Arsenal.

Premier League: Arsene Wenger says Arsenal are showing signs of consistency after West Ham win

Arsene Wenger said Arsenal are heading in the right direction after seeing them hold on for a 2-1 win over West Ham.

Premier League: Newcastle overcome Everton 3-2 thanks to Papiss Cisse, Ayoze Perez and Jack Colback

Newcastle overcame Everton 3-2 at St James' Park thanks to goals from Papiss Cisse, Ayoze Perez and Jack Colback.

Mail Box

Van Gaal's Half-Term Report Card...

One Man United fan isn't happy with the rate the team is progressing under Louis van Gaal, while the mailbox also wishes Liverpool fans a Merry Mid-Table Christmas...

Hang On, Rafa's Success Is No Fluke...

The afternoon mailbox kicks the morning mailbox's arse after claims that Rafa Benitez has fluked his success. Plus, big talk about Liverpool's progress and lots more...

© 2014 British Sky Broadcasting Ltd. All Rights Reserved A Sky Sports Digital Media property