Chelsea: Ivanovic backs Mata to earn his place in Mourinho's team

Chelsea defender Bravislav Ivanovic has defended the player who has hardly featured for the Blues, just a season after lifting the club's Player of the Year award.

Chelsea defender Branislav Ivanovichas hit out to the critics of talented midfielder Juan Mata and insists that he is one of the best players in the Premier League.

The Spanish forward has been Chelsea’s player of the season for the last two years and has been instrumental in the side lifting both the Champions League and the Europa League, yet he has found it hard to cement a place in the squad since the return of manager Jose Mourinho over the summer.

It seems scarcely believable that the Spaniard, who was simply outstanding in 2012-13 season, cannot get a game at Stamford Bridge.

Last year he scored 19 goals and contributed 35 assists to the team as they finished third in the Premier League and lifted the Europa Cup, and was far and away the best player in a blue shirt.

Ivanovic told reporters: "He is 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. 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."

Very high praise indeed, but the bare fact of the matter is that Mata has started just one of Chelsea's three league fixtures this season, replaced by one of a number of players signed in his position, so is it a case that Mourinho has a vision which doesn’t include the 25 year-old or is there a deep lying problem?

Ivanovic also defended the apparent replacements for Mata, those players that were signed in the summer’s transfer window such as, with Willian, Andre Schurrle and Marco van Ginkel all recruited while Kevin De Bruyne returned from his season-long loan spell at Werder Bremen.

He said:"Kevin has refreshed our frontline," the defender enthused of the Belgian. "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 [third].

"He is someone who can change a game, decide a game."

Chelsea fans, should Mourinho, bite the bullet and play Mata?

image: © Ben Sutherland

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