Juan Mata says the people of St Louis have been ‘amazing’ since the squad arrived in America on Monday.
The team trained at the Busch Stadium on Wednesday night having been to St Louis University on Tuedsay, and the Spaniard has been impressed from the minute the squad touched down.
‘The reception from the city and from the people was amazing. We’re really happy to be here in the city at this amazing stadium, at the university camp also, and it’s good to promote soccer to people here, to see a lot of people wearing Chelsea shirts,’ Mata said. ‘We’re very happy to be here and will do our best in the game [against Manchester City on Thursday] to win.’
It was a sentiment echoed by Branislav Ivanovic, who discussed the City game: ‘It’s a pleasure to be here, it’s great to promote football.
‘It will be a competitive game played at as high a level as possible because we are professional. We will do our job, we finished the season well and we will try to carry on. We want to do our best in these two games.’
Mata paid tribute to the quality of our opposition, who were unbeaten against the Blues in four meetings during the 2012/13 campaign.
‘Man City has a lot of players with quality, midfielders and offensive players,’ he said. ‘It’s hard to play against them. They keep the ball, have possession and have a lot of goals in their game. It’s difficult to defend them, but we will see tomorrow. We know each other really well.
‘For both teams, the best thing will be the atmosphere of the stadium. It is a huge venue and it is a pleasure for us to play here. We are expecting a great atmosphere and we will do our best for the supporters that are going to be here.
‘It is not the same because if you lose these games you don’t lose three points, but when we represent Chelsea what we want is to win, no matter if it’s a friendly game or not.’
Mata was also quizzed by local journalists on what he knew about the town. One of life’s more studious characters, the 25-year-old was able to respond confidently.
‘To be honest not much,’ he began, ‘but yesterday I learned that in the 1950s or 1960s the United States soccer team had six or seven players from here. In history it’s a city that liked football, and that’s why we are here. I know the Cardinals are famous, but I don’t follow baseball too much!’
Thursday night’s match at the Busch Stadium has sold out, but supporters in New York can still buy tickets for Saturday’s match at Yankee Stadium. Both games are also live on Chelsea TV, with fans in the UK and Ireland able to watch for free.