Rafael Benítez hails Juan Mata ahead of Chelsea’s trip to Fulham

Interim boss Rafael Benítez singles out Juan Mata for special praise ahead of Chelsea's trip to Fulham on Wednesday

juan mata
Juan Mata signed for Chelsea from Valencia in August 2011 Photo: The Sport Review

Rafael Benítez has singled out Juan Mata for special praise ahead of Chelsea’s trip to Fulham on Wednesday and believes the playmaker is a strong contender for the PFA player of the year award.

The Spanish midfielder has been in superb form for the Blues this season, scoring 18 goals in all competitions and making 24 assists.

Benítez believes Mata bears a number of similarities to Chelsea legend Gianfranco Zola and has been thrilled by the 24-year-old’s displays.

“If you analyse his performances over the course of the season then he could be one of the players of the year for sure,” said the Chelsea interim boss.

“Assists, goals and playing in a lot of games. If you play in a team that plays just one game a week then you can be good but Juan is playing two, three games a week for months and he is doing well.

“Technically, he is very good. He finds the space, he can score goals, he can pass – that is game intelligence.

“It is not easy [to find these players], that’s why they are more expensive.

“Gianfranco Zola is a similar kind of player. They both have game intelligence so they can get into the box at the right time.”

Chelsea can move above Arsenal and into third place in the Premier League table with victory at Craven Cottage on Wednesday.

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