Juan Mata will find himself back in the Chelsea team if he continues to produce the kind of performance he did against Swindon, boss Jose Mourinho has revealed.
Mata has fallen out of favour at Stamford Bridge since the Special One’s return in the summer, with Oscar, Eden Hazard and Andre Schurrle preferred for their superior defensive workrate.
But the Spaniard produced a more disciplined display against the Robins on Tuesday evening, and Mourinho admits he has been impressed by his No 10’s reaction to being dropped.
When asked if Mata stood a chance of keeping his place for today’s clash with Tottenham, the Blues boss replied: “Yes. I liked him (against Swindon).
“We are speaking about a team that is two divisions below us, but professionalism is important no matter who you play against.
“He made a big effort to come in my direction and when he does that, all I can do is go in his direction. From now if he keeps working that way, the football I want, the natural tendency is to be in the team.”
No love lost
Today’s match at White Hart Lane has been billed as a personal duel between Mourinho and his former protege, Andre Villas-Boas, who spoke coldly of their relationship earlier this week.
But the Special One was in no mood to answer questions on the subject. “I don’t describe (our relationship) because I don’t discuss relationships with the media,” he insisted.
“I don’t care what he says, and I’m not going to comment. I’m not interested.”
When asked what influence he had on Villas-Boas’ managerial career, Mourinho responded: “I have no idea. You have to ask him, it’s not my problem.
“I had so many assistants and was always an open book to all of them trying to do the same with Chris Jones, Steve Holland and the coaches in the academy. After that if they want to read the book, it’s not my problem.”
The Chelsea manager does, however, believes their summer of transfer activity means Tottenham will mount a serious challenge this season, despite losing Gareth Bale.
“I think they are a big contender,” he continued. “They were the champions of the market, all international players with quality. The squad is very good.
“Before there was a bit of a difference between first choice and second line, but in this moment they have two teams.
“I think they have a much better squad now than before, and no one can criticise me for that. You win titles with squads, not a good player, so I think they are bigger contenders than before.”
Ramires did not train with the Chelsea squad yesterday, but Mourinho remains hopeful that he can feature today.
One man who is definitely out, though, is Marco van Ginkel, who underwent surgery on an anterior cruciate ligament injury, but will still be out for six months
On TV tonight
>> Tottenham Hotspur vs Chelsea, Live on ESPN HD & Star Sports 2, 17:05
>> Manchester United vs West Bromwich Albion, Live on ESPN HD & Star Sports 2, 19:20
>> Aston Villa vs Manchester City, Live on ESPN, 19:25
>> Swansea City vs Arsenal, Live on ESPN HD & Star Sports 2, 21:50
>> UD Almeria vs FC Barcelona, Live on ESPN, 21:25
>> Real Sociedad vs Sevilla FC, Live on ESPN, 23:25
>> Real Madrid CF vs Atletico Madrid, Live on ESPN & ESPN HD, 01:25 (Sunday)