Europa League: Diplomatic Juan Mata focuses on Chelsea's task in hand

Life at Stamford Bridge never dull for Spaniard ahead of Blues' Basel Europa League decider

The end of Juan Mata's second season at Chelsea is still at least five games away and yet already he is preparing for the possibility of his second European final, his third trophy and, unquestionably, the arrival of the fourth manager he has worked under. Welcome to Chelsea, where life can be chaotic but the excitement never wanes. If that was not exhausting enough, the Spain international has played 123 games for club and country over the last two years and tomorrow he and Chelsea stand on the brink of a Europa League final.

Trophies are what happen at Chelsea while they are busy making plans to replace the manager. That was the case last season when Mata was part of the Champions League team that Roberto Di Matteo took over from the deposed Andre Villas-Boas. Now he is a key member of the side, or rotation system, that Rafa Benitez has refined since taking over from Di Matteo – indeed, after every regime-change, Mata has unfailingly found favour with each new manager.

"I've said it before, as a professional you have to be able to do it: to train, to perform and win no matter who the manager is," Mata said. "Chelsea are a club who are always at the top level. It's true I've had three managers. I really enjoyed myself with all of them. Now we are with Rafa and have a chance to win another trophy with him. Maybe it'll be a great season in the end. And that's what we want."

It is the sensible diplomacy that has characterised Mata's time in England. A supremely skilful player on the pitch, capable of changing the course of the game; a thoughtful soul away from it with his university course in journalism and his photo-essays of London. The only question that hovers over him is whether he fits the template for a Jose Mourinho player, with the Real Madrid manager now the first choice to succeed Benitez this summer.

Such is the importance of Mata to the new Chelsea, it seems churlish to ask the question but it has been chewed over by those who know well how the club works. When Mata was signed it was with a view to building a version of Barcelona at Stamford Bridge under Villas-Boas. Two years, and three managers later, it will not be Barcelona that Mourinho tries to recreate – he does things his own way.

Mourinho's midfield, in just over three seasons at Chelsea, were built around players who had power and athleticism – Michael Essien, Frank Lampard and Michael Ballack – with less requirement for a playmaker in the more traditional 4-1-4-1 system that he deployed. Of course, times change, but it will be interesting to see how he regards Mata.

Asked whether he would welcome the arrival of Mourinho, Mata found himself in that awkward position of trying to second-guess Roman Abramovich. "It's not our business, the players, to be honest," he said. "Now we have so many important things still to come. We just have to be focused about what we're playing for, a very important trophy for the club, and being third in the league to get into the Champions League. That's it, all I can say."

Did he think that Benitez, the man alongside him, should be given longer? "Tricky, it doesn't depend on me," he said. "All I can say is that we're working really, really well with Rafa. That's the truth for me. In the training and games we're all together, trying to do the best for Chelsea. That's what we want. As a player, all I can do is perform at my best every game. That's what I'm trying to do."

A 2-1 lead in the semi-final second leg at Stamford Bridge requires Basel to score twice at least and despite their success on penalties against Tottenham Hotspur in the previous round – after a 2-2 draw – history does not favour them. Basel have not won in nine games in European competition in England and a Swiss club has not won a tie in this country since Lucerne beat Spurs in the InterToto Cup at the Goldstone Ground in Brighton in 1995.

Chelsea last lost at home in Europe to Manchester United in the Champions League quarter-finals in 2011 but Benitez warned against the complacent view that they have already secured their place in the final in Amsterdam in two weeks' time. With United awaiting on Sunday in that crucial league game, Benitez also has to husband his resources although he has no injuries in the squad apart from the long-term absentee Oriol Romeu. Ashley Cole will miss the game through suspension.

"I have to use my words carefully: I am concerned, but I'm not afraid," Benitez said. "We know they're a dangerous team. They're quite strong, score goals away, but we know we have a good team and are so close to the final. We have to be focused and make sure we don't make mistakes, but I have a lot of confidence in my players."

The interim first team coach was asked on many occasions about Mourinho's hints that he is returning to Chelsea. This was not an occasion upon which Benitez wished to impart one of his famous messages.

This is not the trophy that Chelsea wanted but it will be a nice add-on to the season providing they qualify for the Champions League. "Since we were out of the group in the Champions League," Mata said, "every time I watch a game on the TV from the competition I think it's a shame." That is putting it mildly – it is the one prize they cannot afford to miss out on.

Emma Watson has become the latest target of the 4Chan nude hacking scandal
peopleThreats follows actress' speech on feminism and equality at the UN
Life and Style
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer
Life and Style
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Life and Style
Alan Turing, who was convicted of gross indecency in 1952, was granted a royal pardon last year
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black and Ed Stoppard as her manager Brian Epstein
tvCilla Episode 2 review: Grit under the glamour in part two of biopic series starring Sheridan Smith
Life and Style
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Secret politics of the weekly shop

The politics of the weekly shop

New app reveals political leanings of food companies
Beam me up, Scottie!

Beam me up, Scottie!

Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

Beware Wet Paint

The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
Sanctuary for the suicidal

Sanctuary for the suicidal

One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits