The Spanish playmaker has been conspicuous by his absence in the Blues’ team so far this term, but with others injured he may get a chance at Goodison.
Jose Mourinho is still getting to know his Chelsea squad, with the Portuguese trainer mixing it up in a number of different positions. However, in attacking midfield the former Real Madrid trainer is blessed with an over-abundance of talent.
Mata’s omission has been put down to fitness concerns, but the Spain international must now be back up to speed and ready to play. An ever-present when available last season, one feels that Rafa Benitez would have opted to play Mata even if he was not fully match-fit, whereas Mourinho has placed diminished importance on the diminutive schemer.
The Blues’ decision to overstock in offensive midfield players is looking justified after both Oscar and Eden Hazard picked up injuries while on international duty. The pair, who have started all three Premier League games so far for Chelsea, will not feature against Everton, which opens the door for others.
Mata is in no way guaranteed to start, but if he is omitted once more it would be something of a shock. Willian looks in line to potentially make his debut after a big-money move from Anzhi Makhachkala in the summer, while Mourinho also has Kevin De Bruyne, Marco van Ginkel and Andre Schurrle to call upon. Despite the obvious strength in depth, surely Mata must command one of the three attacking midfield berths that the Blues use in their 4-2-3-1 system?
Mata is well respected by the rest of the Chelsea squad and adored by the fans after stellar performances over 24 months in west London. A total of 28 assists in all competitions last season shows the ex-Valencia man’s ability to set goals up for others, while he hit the back of the net 11 times in the Premier League.
Should he be left out of the starting XI again it will have the media continuing to ask questions about the Spaniard’s future and potentially alienate one of the club’s best players.
In a tight game like the one against Everton, Mata could well be the difference. With Willian potentially making his debut and Schurrle, Van Ginkel and De Bruyne inexperienced in English football, Mata’s inclusion makes complete sense.
image: © Ronnie Macdonald