Since Chelsea last played Swansea, our 1-1 draw at the Liberty Stadium back in January, the Welsh club has looked south and taken on a very La Liga look.
It is nothing new in that part of the football world. During Roberto Martinez’s 18 months in charge there he also signed Spanish players, but this summer following the departure of Brendan Rodgers, Swansea recruited Michael Laudrup who has a mighty history in the Spanish game, plus four players directly from Spanish clubs.
Ahead of this weekend’s meeting with the Swans, Juan Mata gave the official Chelsea website the lowdown on the players who have crossed the Pyrenees to the Premier League, including some he knows especially well.
Pablo Hernandez, like Mata, was signed from Valencia.
‘Pablo is one of my best friends in football,’ Mata reveals about the 27-year-old.
‘I was with him three years at Valencia and I was sharing my room with him for two years. We used to go on holiday together and we used to play golf together. He is a better golf player than me.
‘As a football player he is a right winger, he has pace, he has quality and can cross and score goals. He used to play in the national team as well, when we were in the Confederations Cup three years ago.
‘He asked me how it was playing in the Premier League and I said positive things about this, and about this country, and I think he is very happy here. He is enjoying his life in Wales and has Spanish friends there as well and he is learning English. I think it is a very good step for him in his life.’
MIchu, currently Swansea’s top scorer in the league with six goals, is another player with whom Mata has a close relationship.
They are from the same city and grew up in the academy of the same club, Real Oviedo, although not together as Michu is one year older.
‘He did really good things last season in the Spanish league, scoring 15 goals at Rayo Vallecano which was the best for a midfielder.
‘So far he is doing very well at Swansea, he is scoring and is playing like a number 9. So he has settled down in the Premier League very well.
‘Chico Flores is a central defender and I played with him in the Under-21 national team. We played together in a play-off to be qualified for the European Championships and he has experience because he used to play in Italy as well.’
Chico is rated an injury doubt for tomorrow’s game but another Spanish defender, Angel Rangel is set to play. He was a Martinez signing who remains. Former Dutch Under-21 international midfielder Jonathan de Guzman joined this summer on loan from Villarreal.
‘De Guzman used to play in Mallorca and when I played against him he was a very dynamic midfielder with the quality to play and to defend as well,’ recalls Mata. ‘He played for Michael Laudrup at Mallorca.
‘Rangel has played for a long time at Swansea and knows this country very well and for me he is one of the most consistent full-backs in the league.’
Finally Mata spoke about Laudrup, one of a select band of players to be a success at both Barcelona and Real Madrid. In his first year as a manager in Spain he took Getafe to the final of Copa del Rey where they lost to Valencia for whom Mata scored.
‘Michael was one of the best European footballers in history and the way he used to play, he is trying to include it now in his teams,’ says Mata.
‘They like to play with the ball from the back and not with the long balls.
‘Last season at Swansea they played well against us, they moved the ball so quickly and nearly won. They changed players, changed manager but they are doing more or less the same this season. The idea is the same.’