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Benitez defends Mata decision

Chelsea manager Rafa Benitez has defended his decision to leave Juan Mata out of the starting line-up for the 0-0 Stamford Bridge draw against Fulham.

Benitez dropped the Spanish playmaker - one of Chelsea's stars of the season so far - to the bench, instead favouring the more defensive Ryan Bertrand.

But the move to leave out Mata, who has scored seven times so far, backfired as Benitez, who has been given a hostile reception by the Blues faithful, watched his side labour to their second goalless draw from his two games in charge.

But the manager told Sky Sports news his decision had been taken in order to give Mata a rest and said his team had deserved to win despite neighbours Fulham missing the game's best chance through John Arne Riise.

"We have too many games in a few days, so it was just a decision to use the squad," he explained.

He was adamant that Chelsea, now in third but seven points off the top of the table, could still win the league, adding: "There's still a long way to go and we will have chances. Remember last season when City were ahead and it was easy? Then they needed to win their last game.

"It's a long, long competition. Can we still win it? Why not?

"We need to try to keep the team well organised and improve the attack. We have to create more chances, sustain attack and control the game. It's not easy to say how long [it will take] but hopefully the next game will be better."

Benitez praised Fulham for their "well-organised" performance, but added: "They had two chances, we made mistakes to stop the counter-attack, but we were on top of them."

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