Following a two-week break earlier in the season, Juan Mata has been in superb form since returning to the fold, but the Spanish playmaker has praised the efforts of those around him as we prepare for a massive test at Tottenham Hotspur later today.
Given his performances of late, it’s somewhat surprising that Mata was overlooked for the Spain squad ahead of their most recent games against Belarus and France.
Rather than jetting off alongside Fernando Torres with the rest of the national squad, he has spent the past fortnight training at Cobham, but while his omission was clearly disappointing on a personal note, Spain’s loss could yet prove to be Chelsea’s gain.
‘I’ve been very happy with my form in the last few games before the international break,’ he tells the official Chelsea website. ‘These two weeks have given me the opportunity to rest a little bit, so I’m feeling good and ready for the match.
‘We are enjoying our football at the moment; we are top of the league and also ahead in our Champions League group.
‘Personally, I’m very pleased with the way it’s going; we are getting some good results, but it’s not just down to me, it’s due to the work of my team-mates.’
It’s generally a feisty affair any time Chelsea and Tottenham meet, but with the White Hart Lane outfit now under the stewardship of former Blues manager Andre Villas-Boas, this one has an added edge to it.
Villas-Boas was the man responsible for luring Mata to Stamford Bridge at the beginning of last season, and the Blues playmaker has nothing but kind words for the man who helped him settle in England.
‘He was very important to me when I first arrived here and he gave me a lot of confidence so, of course, I’m very grateful,’ says Mata.
‘I haven’t seen him since he left the club but I wish him the best of luck, although not during today’s game.’
Last season’s corresponding fixture ended 1-1, with Daniel Sturridge’s strike cancelling out Emmanuel Adebayor’s opener in an entertaining fixture which both sides will feel they could have won.
Roberto Di Matteo’s side head into the game as one of only two teams – along with Manchester City – in the Premier League yet to taste defeat this season, but with Tottenham having won four on the bounce, including a 3-2 victory away at Manchester United, there is every chance we will face our toughest test of the campaign to date.
Having missed out on Champions League qualification at the last minute courtesy of our success in Munich, and with a 5-1 FA Cup semi-final defeat last April still fresh in the mind, the home fans will be desperate to gain some form of revenge.
Mata, though, who scored a controversial second goal in that Wembley mauling, is relishing putting our unbeaten run on the line in what promises to be an intimidating atmosphere.
‘I remember the game last season at White Hart Lane,’ he explains. ‘In the second half it became a bit crazy, we had some chances to win the match and I’m expecting a similar type of game tomorrow.
‘They always want to attack, particularly when they are playing at home, but we have good players on the break which means we should be able to give ourselves enough opportunities to score.
‘There is a lot of rivalry between Tottenham and Chelsea, not just the supporters, but the teams as well. The atmosphere at last season’s game was amazing, it’s difficult for us because of their supporters but it’s also good to see all of our fans packed into the corner behind the goal.’