Juan Mata challenges Chelsea to win Europa League and finish third
Juan Mata challenges Chelsea to end a turbulent campaign on a high by winning the Europa League and finishing third
Juan Mata has challenged Chelsea to end a turbulent campaign on a high by winning the Europa League and finishing third.
The Blues are 90 minutes away from reaching the final of Europe’s second tier club competition ahead of Thursday’s second-leg showdown against Basel at Stamford Bridge following last week’s 2-1 triumph in Switzerland.
Chelsea are third in the Premier League table with four games left to play and Mata admits he does not want to choose between a Europa League triumph and a top-four finish, although the playmaker is adamant the west Londoners “deserve” to be in Europe’s elite club competition.
“I can’t choose [between winning the Europa League and finishing in the top four] to be honest,” Mata told a news conference on Wednesday.
“Once you are in a semi-final you need to [make] another small step to be in the final so for me our aim is to win this trophy and obviously to be in the Champions League next season.
“Chelsea is a club that deserves to be in the Champions League every season. We’re third right now, we have four games to go and if we keep playing well I think we can do both.”
Mata added: “Since we went out of the Champions League every time I watch a game on TV I think it’s a shame.
“But on the other hand I’d rather be positive and think that we have another chance to win a trophy. To go out in the group stage was a disappointment for the club but now we have another chance to win a big trophy.
“For me, for the team and for the club, it’s very important to have the chance to be in another European final. It means a lot for the club the supports and the players.”
Meanwhile, speculation linking Jose Mourinho with a return to Stamford Bridge has been rife after the Portuguese coach hinted he is interested taking over from interim boss Rafael Benítez.
But the 25-year-old Mata remained coy when asked whether he would welcome the former Chelsea boss back to west London.
“It’s not our business right now,” he said. “We have so many important things still to come and we just have to be focused on what we’re playing for. That’s all I can say right now.”
Chelsea v Basel: Pre-match facts
• Chelsea are unbeaten in 12 European fixtures at Stamford Bridge (W10 D2) since a 1-0 reverse against Manchester United in the 2010-11 Champions League quarter-finals..
• Basel have not won an away game in the Europa League this term (D4 L2).
• None of the four remaining teams have won the Uefa Cup or Europa League before, with Basel and Fenerbahçe both in a European semi-final for the first time.
• Basel are the sole reigning domestic champion still in the tournament.