Juan Mata still has a key role to play at Chelsea, according to his club team-mate Branislav Ivanovic, who described the midfielder as "one of the best quality players in the [Premier] League".
Speaking after Serbia's 3-0 win over Wales in Cardiff, Ivanovic said that despite recent speculation questioning Mata's future at Stamford Bridge, Chelsea's No. 10 remains a central figure in the club's push for honours on all fronts under the returning Jose Mourinho.
"Of course [he is important]," Ivanovic said. "He's a player who was one of the best in the last two years. He came back late from the summer, but he's had the time to work now. He's a guy who is really important for us and for the team.
"It's important for him to train hard, keep going and use every chance [he has]. I always said that, for me, Mata is one of the best quality players in the league. He has a brilliant touch, and he's a brilliant guy."
Ivanovic does recognise, however, that nobody in Chelsea's well-stocked pool of creative talents can take their place for granted, and underlined his feeling that Kevin De Bruyne could emerge as a crucial option for the Blues following his return from a successful loan spell at Werder Bremen.
"Kevin has refreshed our frontline," Ivanovic enthused. "He has some different qualities to the other guys, some important things, and I think he's one of the guys who is most important for us in the attacking (part of the game). He is someone who can change a game, decide a game."
Ivanovic added that Chelsea would need all members of their squad to step up if they are to maintain strong challenges domestically and internationally, saying: "I hope we can have success as a group. It's important to stick together, focus and finish the season well."
Having gone more than two weeks without a Premier League game, Ivanovic emphasised the necessity to pick up the baton quickly as Chelsea return to routine, with Saturday's game at Everton marking the beginning of an intensive schedule of games.
"It's very important that we put this international break behind us now and look forward," he said. "We're expecting four very important Premier League games plus a [Capital One] cup game, plus the Champions League games. So we have to be ready, and switch on quickly because the Premier League can't wait."