LONDON -- Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho confirmed that Juan Mata will start in his side’s Champions League game against Steaua Bucharest on Tuesday night, after the Spaniard turned in a sparkling display to inspire a Blues comeback in the 1-1 draw against Tottenham at White Hart Lane.
Mata made a significant impact after coming off the bench to assume his role as they key creative playmaker in the Chelsea line-up, with Mourinho forced to concede his criticism of the player just a week ago may have been misplaced.
Mourinho stated that Mata had to improve if he was to force his way back into his team after he was left out of the entire Chelsea squad for the game against Fulham last Saturday but, just a week later, the manager appears far happier with the Spain international.
“This is the way players have to tell me they want to be in my team,” Mourinho said as he appeared in jovial mood at the post-match press conference. “I sometimes make a mistake as a manager, but I make my decisions on what I see in training and on the pitch. I liked what Mata did against Swindon in the Capital One Cup and I put him on the bench today.
“Now I like what I see when he plays for 45 minutes. I’m a very happy manager when I see Juan Mata playing like this. I can tell you now that he will play against Steaua Bucharest in the Champions League on Tuesday -- he deserves that chance. I want my players to tell me they want to play. Juan told me that.”
Mata, speaking to BT Sport after the match, said: "I just tried to do my best for the team. Everyone wants to play. I respect all of my team-mates and I want to enjoy it on the pitch. Today I did it."
Although Mourinho was happy with his side’s second-half performance against Spurs -- he described it as “the best we have played this season” -- he admitted there are still issues within his team.
“We have our problems and some of them are not easy to resolve,” he said. “Some of the qualities of the players you cannot change. We have to hide our weaknesses and, step by step, we have to improve.
“If you had offered me one point from this game before it started, I would have said okay. If you had offered me one point at half-time, I would have taken it as Tottenham were the better team in the first half.
“In the end, we had to win this game. We were attacking, creating chances, we were the much better team. With 11 men, we win this game, for sure. This was a great performance in the second half and if there is not a red card for Fernando Torres, we will win this game.”
Mourinho insisted he is satisfied with his side’s start to the season, as they have emerged from games against Manchester United at Old Trafford and this trip to Tottenham with credible draws in a period of change following his return as manager.
“We have played two title contenders away from home and we have two points,” he added. “A point away from home against a title contender is never a bad result and, after that, you need to get most of your points in home matches.
“Win your home matches, pick up some points away from home, win some draw some, and we will be very close in the end of the season. I am not saying we will win the title, but we will be very close.”