Mata admits extra Champions League motivation
Chelsea's failure to finish in the Premier League top four has made them even more desperate to win the Champions League, according to Juan Mata. The opportunity to be crowned kings of Europe for the first time would seem motivation enough for the Blues to beat Bayern Munich in next Saturday Allianz Arena showdown.
But playmaker Mata told Press Association Sport the prospect of failing to qualify for next season's competition had given him and his team-mates an added incentive to upset the odds against the German giants. "We want to win for the club, and for us, because we can make history for Chelsea," he said, speaking at the official launch of Chelsea's partnership with the Sauber Formula One team.
"But, as well, it's important to play in the Champions League next year. Chelsea always want to be in the Champions League."
The Blues have not been out of the competition since Roman Abramovich bought the club nine years ago. But they have paid the price for a turbulent season which saw Andre Villas-Boas sacked as manager almost ten weeks ago.
"It hasn't been an easy season for us in the Premier League," Mata said ahead of tomorrow's final league game of the season against Blackburn. "We are in sixth position, so it's not what Chelsea deserves.
"But we won the FA Cup, we have the chance now to win the Champions League as well. So, if we win both, it will be an amazing season for us."
The fact Chelsea are on the brink of such a historic season is down to the players and caretaker manager Roberto Di Matteo. "Robbie's a very good guy, a very good person," Mata said of the former Blues midfielder. "He has character, he knows Chelsea. He used to play, now he's training. So he's a very good manager and we are all with him."
Mata, who was signed by Villas-Boas last summer, would not go as far as backing Di Matteo for the manager's job full-time. He said: "We don't know, we don't know. It's not our job. But I think all of us are happy with him. We have to win the final of the Champions League and now that's it."
Summer signing Mata has done more than most to help Di Matteo transform Chelsea's fortunes during the last two months, featuring in every game until Tuesday night's 4-1 thrashing at Liverpool.
Two days later, he was deservedly crowned the club's Player of the Year, and Di Matteo is unlikely to take any chances with his star player tomorrow, confirming he would blood "one or two" of his youngsters.
But Spain international Mata once again played down fears he was at risk of burnout and reiterated his desire to play at both this summer's European Championship and the Olympic Games. "It's true that I have played a lot of games, more than ever for me," he said. "But it's what I want. I always want to play and, after in the summer, we have the Euros and Olympic Games. I'm still young and I want to play every weekend."
Di Matteo presented Mata with his Player of the Year gong at Stamford Bridge on Thursday night and he was full of praise for the former Valencia winger. "To be so efficient and effective in the first season in English football is impressive because it does take time to adjust in the Premier League," Di Matteo said.
"He's had a remarkable season, won the Player of the Year for the club, and that just shows what kind of player he's been for us this year."