Juan Mata is hoping for involvement against Aston Villa on Wednesday after watching Sunday’s victory against Hull from the sidelines.
We kicked off the Barclays Premier League campaign with a convincing 2-0 win at Stamford Bridge at the weekend, with last season’s Player of the Year an unused substitute following his recovery from injury, but now fit, Mata is eager to win back a place he knows will be well contested over the coming months.
‘It was a very good start in the game against Hull,’ he said. ‘The first 30 minutes were amazing. The team pushed, pressed and recovered the ball very high and scored two goals, it could have been even more and we played well. In the second half they improved and we were a bit slow, we didn’t have the rhythm but it was enough to get the three points.
‘Now I am looking forward to being involved. It was better to stop and I didn’t go to the national team, but now I am ready to play.’
The problem was a minor muscle injury, picked up during pre-season training in America.
‘After my first game in pre-season when I played 45 minutes against Inter, I felt my thigh was a bit tight, I carried on in the second game against Milan, but the day before Real Madrid I felt more pain,’ explained the 25-year-old. ‘We did a scan and I had a small problem, which can be dangerous in that muscle because I shoot with that left foot, so I stopped and didn’t train for a few days.
‘I came back, worked with the physios and on Thursday last week trained with the team for the first time, not at 100 per cent, but trying to get to my best and now I feel better and am looking forward to playing and starting my season.’
The aim for Mata is to be involved tomorrow as we seek to maintain our winning start to the campaign against a side he believes will do better than last season, and started well with a 3-1 win at Arsenal at the weekend.
‘We knew they were a very good team already,’ Mata said. ‘I remember the last game we played against them at Villa Park, which was very difficult. They scored first with Christian Benteke, and there were a lot of rumours about him but he stayed there and is a very important player for them. They’re a very compact team, very young and fresh so it will be a tough game for us for sure.’