Juan Mata knows to expect a difficult challenge from Liverpool at Stamford Bridge this afternoon, having been on the receiving end of three defeats against the Reds last season.
Of course we won the crucial one, the FA Cup Final in early May, but we were ‘doubled’ in the lead and also eliminated from the Carling Cup on home soil, a competition Liverpool went on to win at Wembley back in February.
Much has changed on both sides since then, with Roberto Di Matteo and Brendan Rodgers, a familiar figure to Blues fans, installed as their clubs’ new managers and new eras dawning.
For Chelsea, it has meant an adjustment in our style of play that seems to suit Mata, with the additions of Eden Hazard and Oscar making it easier for the Spaniard to conjure his magic, evidenced by October’s Barclays Premier League Player of the Month award.
‘Every team has to play with the kind of players they have,’ Mata said. ‘Now we have players like Oscar and Hazard, who are able to keep the ball and make assists. It’s good for us to play like this. It’s my preferred way to play.
‘Obviously the perfect game is with the clean sheet also, but we can’t always achieve this. We have scored in every game this season except the QPR game, and we are confident that we can score in every game.
‘I’m very happy to play with [Hazard and Oscar]. They are young players and doing really well. I love the way they play, it’s a lot like me and we are always trying to provide assists for the striker. We’re enjoying playing together. You always try to improve and for me to pay with them could make me a better player.
‘It’s a very good season so far for me, October was a good month and I just have to try and keep improving.’
Liverpool have won their last three visits to SW6, and Mata recognises the importance of three points in maintaining our start to the season and dismissing the prospect of another autumn dip in Chelsea form.
‘I think it’s going to be a big month,’ he predicted. ‘We want to change the last years and we think it is going to be good for us.
‘It’s going to be tough. Last season I realised playing against Liverpool is always difficult. We lost here twice, in the league and in the Carling Cup, but Liverpool is one of the best teams in England with their history and their players.’