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Mata wants strong finish

Juan Mata has vowed to shake off any weariness to ensure Chelsea complete their troubled and epic season with success.

Last Updated: 06/05/13 at 13:36 Post Comment

Juan Mata: Insists Chelsea will fight until the end

Juan Mata: Insists Chelsea will fight until the end

Juan Mata has vowed to shake off any weariness to ensure Chelsea complete their troubled and epic season with success in two European challenges.

Mata made the difference as the Blues kept themselves on course for Champions League football next season - their prime remaining objective of the campaign - with a 1-0 win at Manchester United.

Speculation continued on Monday that Jose Mourinho will be the man at the helm for the 2013-14 season after a Spanish TV show aired a picture of him shopping in Ikea in Madrid.

Punto Pelota claimed the Real Madrid coach spent 200 euros on packing boxes and masking tape with the implication being it could be in preparation for a house move.

Should Mourinho return, he is sure to want to build his team around men like Mata.

The Spaniard's decisive strike three minutes from time, although recorded as a Phil Jones own goal after a deflection off the defender, lifted the Londoners back into third in the Barclays Premier League with a priceless win.

With a strong goal difference in their favour, they can now effectively secure a top-four place with victory over rivals Tottenham at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday.

That would then put them in good heart as they step up preparations for the Europa League final against Benfica later this month.

But with Chelsea having already played a club-record 65 games - after campaigns in the Champions League, Europa League, Club World Cup and an extended domestic cup runs - Mata concedes the players are feeling the effects.

The 25-year-old told Chelsea TV: "It wasn't our best game.

"I felt in the first half, and sometimes second half, we played a bit slow, maybe because of the amount of games that we have already played during the season.

"I think it is normal. When you arrive at the end of the season your legs are a bit tired, mentally as well - but you have to be ready because it is the most important part of the season.

"I think we fight until the end."

Chelsea's victory was deserved having made most of the running against a United side clearly demotivated after winning the title.

Oscar forced goalkeeper Anders Lindegaard to tip onto the post early on and Mata was a constant threat. He was inches away from connecting with a dangerous Frank Lampard before forcing the winner.

On the whole the contest was a lacklustre one but it ended in controversial fashion when United defender Rafael was sent off for kicking out at fellow Brazilian David Luiz.

Luiz went down in apparent agony but cameras revealed him to be smiling out of referee Howard Webb's sight.

Mata accepts his team may not have been at their best but is anxious to carry winning momentum into the clash with fifth-placed Spurs.

He said: "We knew maybe a point wasn't bad but we wanted to win.

"We now play against Tottenham on Wednesday, which is going to be a final again.

"Three points here is amazing because now we are in third position. If we win against Tottenham we will be in the Champions League.

"Mentally you don't have time to disconnect. We play Sunday, Wednesday, Saturday, so mentally you are always focused.

"Physically you have to rest. These two days are important to us, Monday and Tuesday.

"We need to rest, to train and get ready. We want and need to win against Tottenham."

Chelsea's interim manager Rafael Benitez paid credit to his team for digging out the result.

It has been a difficult campaign at Stamford Bridge with Benitez's appointment greeted with derision from supporters while two of his players - Peter Cech and Branislav Ivanovic - have spoken positively of late about the idea that Mourinho could come back to the west London club next season.

Benitez is set to leave in the summer but the Spaniard is keen to keep attention focused on the field.

He said: "When you have a good team, always you can win. That is what I am trying to explain.

"The managers can talk but the main thing is that the team can talk on the pitch and make the difference."

Benitez feels Mata's influence has been a strong one with the former Valencia player having now struck 19 times this season.

He said: "Sometimes we have some players growing, and Mata is one of these players.

"I said he could be player of the year, for everything he does for us, scoring goals, giving assists.

"He is a very influential player in the game.

"You can see a lot of the other players growing too. That is what we have to do."

Another of Chelsea's attacking weapons, Eden Hazard, was not risked at Old Trafford due to a tight calf but he could return in midweek.

Benitez said: "I think he could be available but it is not easy to say now. The physios are working with him so we will see."


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