Mata relieved to receive Spain recall
Juan Mata says he is delighted to be back in the Spain squad for this week's friendly in Panama but he is not expecting an easy ride against the Central Americans.
Mata was not included in the Spain squad by coach Vicente Del Bosque for last month's two World Cup 2014 qualifying matches but has returned this week, while Fernando Torres has been left out, along with other senior players including Xavi Hernandez, David Silva and Xabi Alonso.
The Blues playmaker, named Premier League Player of the Month for October, said he was happy that his good club form had been recognised by Del Bosque ahead of the game at Panama City's Estadio Rommel Fernandez.
"On a personal level, the season is going well," Mata said. "Not being in the last squad was not good news for me. Every player feels happy when they are called up by their national team. The most important thing is to do well with your club. I feel happy as things are going well for me."
Mata believes that Chelsea team-mate Torres, who has just one goal in six games for Chelsea since he appeared as a late substitute in Spain's 1-1 qualifying draw with France in October, is enjoying his football at the moment and is expecting the striker to be recalled to Del Bosque's next squad.
"Fernando told me to enjoy it and wished me luck," he said. "I expect he will be back in the squad. He is playing well, and enjoying the games this season, which is the most important for him."
The fixture against Panama, which involves two ten-hour flights in three days, has been criticised in Spain as little more than a money-spinner for the RFEF (Spanish FA), who will reportedly receive a €2.5 million appearance fee. Similarly lucrative friendlies have taken the world and European champions across the Atlantic to Mexico, Venezuela, Costa Rica and Puerto Rico in recent years.
Mata said he had no problem with such trips, and that the team would be taking the game seriously.
"We are coming to compete, we know it is not a qualifying game, but we still have to give everything," he said. "For us, for the national team, it is nice to get to know this country and its culture. They love football and have a competitive team."
Panama, coached by former Cagliari, Paris St Germain, Real Oviedo and Malaga striker Julio Dely Valdes, are ranked 46th in the world by FIFA and are through to the final six-team CONCACAF World Cup 2014 qualifying round.
"The best thing to take on Spain would be to allow us to play with 22 players instead of 11," Valdes joked in Tuesday's Spanish sports daily Marca. "Against Spain it is absurd to think of it as just another day and just another team.
"You can't take them head on. Everything we try to do in games will have to doubled. Twice the attention, the concentration, the effort, helping each other out and so on."
Despite Panama seemingly facing a major uphill challenge on home soil, Mata believes it will not be an easy match for Spain, saying: "I believe Panama will bring intensity to the game.
"It will be an important game for them. To play against Spain is something important, everyone will see it and we need to be at the same level of concentration and intensity."