Juan Mata looked every inch the refreshed player as Stoke were overcome late on at Stamford Bridge of Saturday.
The Spanish international played more Chelsea games than any outfield player last season, and followed that up by being involved in Spain’s Euro 2012 win and then taking to the pitch for their Olympic side.
His was a well-earned rest when he was excused participation in this month’s set of international fixtures and was instead given time away from football completely after our Super Cup game in Monaco.
Mata returned to the starting line-up this weekend and with a draining encounter against the side from the Potteries seemingly destined for a goalless outcome, it was a moment of quick-thinking from the 24-year-old with six minutes left on the clock that opened the way for Ashley Cole to score the winner.
‘It was an instinctive thing, I guessed someone was in the box waiting for the ball but I only realised it was Ashley after we scored,’ admitted Mata who had flicked Branislav Ivanovic’s cross behind him and towards the six-yard box.
‘For a full-back it is very important to go forward as well and Ashley is one of the best full-backs in the world and he showed it on Saturday.
‘Always playing against Stoke is tough because they defend very well with a lot of players. They don’t give us spaces to create some chances to score. But we knew that before the game.
‘At half-time the manager said to us to be patient, to keep playing like we were playing and the chances will come. Always we believed we were going to score in 90 minutes. Against these type of teams we have to be patient, play with our heads and use our quality in passing the ball.
‘It was a very important three points because of the other games this weekend between our rivals.’
Saturday’s match was the first time Mata, Oscar and Eden Hazard were asked to play together as the midfield line behind Fernando Torres, Oscar having retained his place following his sparking showing against Juventus and Mata reconsidered for a start following his short holiday.
‘I feel very well now, I had a break for the last two weeks and now I am ready to play,’ said Mata.
‘Hazard is a special player, he can change games with his quality and I like to play with Oscar because he likes to pass and move and always gives you a chance to pass the ball.
‘I enjoy playing with them both and all the players who came this summer are top players. For sure they will help us and we can play in a different way to last year.’