If you watched Chelsea’s 2-0 victory over Hull City on Sunday then you probably noticed one glaring omission from Jose Mourinho’s lineup – Juan Mata.
The Spanish playmaker, who was on the short-list for PFA Player of the Year last season after racking up 12 goals and 12 assists in the league, was named a substitute against the Tigers but ultimately went unused.
The reason behind Mourinho’s decision not to play Mata was widely believed to be due to one of two things – either the 25 year old was nursing an injury or he didn’t fit into the Chelsea boss’ scheme.
Evidence supporting Mata having an injury was available, although sparse. On August 9th, nine days before the Hull City match, The Guardian released an article noting that along with Frank Lampard and David Luiz, Mata was an injury concern.
When he wasn’t named to the Spanish National Team squad’s friendly against Ecuador on August 16th, most assumed it was due to Mata’s injury, which Mourinho had noted was a “little thing.”
But when Mata was then named in the 18 man roster to go against Hull City, it seemed the Spaniard’s fitness was up to par and he was good to go – until Mourinho handed a shock start to Kevin De Bruyne.
Therein triggered the buzz. Why had Mata been left out? Was he not part of Mourinho’s plans? Earlier in the summer there were murmurings that Mata didn’t fit into Mourinho’s counter-attacking style of play, and worse, that he might be transferred.
Were these seemingly ridiculous beliefs coming to fruition? It wasn’t an implausible premise.
Today, however, we Mata discussed exactly why he was left on the sidelines.
“After my first game in pre-season when I played 45 minutes against Inter, I felt my thigh was a bit tight, I carried on in the second game against Milan, but the day before Real Madrid I felt more pain,” Mata told the club’s official website. “We did a scan and I had a small problem, which can be dangerous in that muscle because I shoot with that left foot, so I stopped and didn’t train for a few days.
“I came back, worked with the physios and on Thursday last week trained with the team for the first time, not at 100 per cent, but trying to get to my best and now I feel better and am looking forward to playing and starting my season.”
So there you have it. The aim is for Mata to be ready for the Blues match against Aston Villa, set to kick off Wednesday at 1:45pm ET on NBCSN.