Rafael Benitez sees continued improvement in the side following the Boxing Day victory at Norwich.
The interim manager led the side to a third straight league win thanks to Juan Mata’s first-half strike, and praised the team’s hard-working performance at Carrow Road.
On the performance
‘We were working very hard. We had one or two chances to score a second goal but in these games a free-kick, corner or counter-attack can make a difference. They were pushing until the end,’ he said.
‘It’s important to see the team working hard and defending well. We have another clean sheet. Today we could manage and control against a good team. They were pushing and dangerous on the counter-attack but we did our job in defence. The team is defending well.
‘We are in a good position. It could be better but I think we are doing well in the last month and the team is progressing. We can manage different games and still get the result and that’s important. We showed we can defend and work hard in difficult conditions. We’re in a good position but we will still try to improve.
‘It is a question of keeping training and playing, and it is positive because the players want to improve things and move forward.’
‘Mata is a player that is very dangerous in the box and outside. He is in form and we are really pleased with him. We have won three games in a row, and we are really pleased for the team, for Juan, and Ake made his debut so a lot of positives today.
‘Juan is doing really well, even without the ball he is working hard and in possession he is making the difference. He is clever, has clever movement and can play high or deeper. He goes to the right spaces and makes it difficult for defenders and midfielders.
‘The Premier League has a lot of good players, he is one of the best for sure but it depends on the rest of the team.’
On the midfield, which had John Mikel Obi back with David Luiz and Frank Lampard on the bench
We knew it could be tough so we were trying to manage in the middle with Obi and David. They did well but we were not in control at the beginning but we were comfortable. After Obi had a knock on his knee we had to change with Lampard with his experience and qualities, so we found the balance.
After being injured as he was, and with the African Cup coming we knew Obi could give us fresh legs. We cannot play so many games with the same players, so it is important to have different players ready to perform.
On Everton, our next game on Sunday
‘I think Ramires will be okay for the next game. John Terry I don’t know, but I think it will still be too early.
‘Everton is doing a great job with a good team and it’s a tough game for sure so we have to be ready, physically and mentally. It’s against a good team doing well in the last years and Goodison is a hard place to go.’