Juan Mata says Chelsea players are behind Rafael Benitez


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The Independent Football

Juan Mata insists Chelsea's players are fully behind Rafael Benitez's mini-revolution.

Blues playmaker Mata denied Benitez's status as 'interim' manager until the end of the season had fatally compromised his authority, despite the former Liverpool boss experiencing a nightmarish start to life at Stamford Bridge.

Benitez has not won any of his first three matches in charge, failing to quell a massive supporter revolt against his appointment and sparking speculation his days could already be numbered.

But no unrest has seeped into the playing squad, according to fellow Spaniard Mata, who is desperate to improve on a run of just two wins from 11 games in tomorrow's Champions League clash with Nordsjaelland.

"We are trusting him because Rafa wants the best for the team," Mata said.

"If we want to win the Club World Cup, or the Premier League or the other competitions, we have to do better.

"Rafa is a very experienced manager and he's trying to help us. We're trying to help him."

Mata also insisted Chelsea's players had not been cowed by the jeers and abuse that have dogged Benitez's short reign.

"I'm not deaf, so we were aware," he said of the fan backlash.

"The supporters are free to do whatever they want. My job, our job, is to play well and to win. That's all I care about."

The 24-year-old added: "I always try to be focused on what I'm doing, nothing else.

"If we want to win, if we want to lift trophies this season, we have to be all together, fight as a unit in the team."

Mata also declared there was no point Chelsea's players bemoaning owner Roman Abramovich's hiring-and-firing policy, which sees the Spain midfielder serving under his third manager in nine months.

"The players have to be professional and work no matter who the manager is of the team," he said.

"We have an owner. We have people who are working, trying to do their best for this club and, as a player, I just have to work with the manager we have now.

"Now it's Rafa."

Mata admitted Chelsea "need a victory" under their new boss, starting tomorrow night.

In fact, they also require Shakhtar Donetsk to beat Juventus to avoid becoming the first Champions League holders to crash out of the competition before Christmas.

Mata denied an early exit would sully the memory of the club's astonishing European Cup final triumph that came only six-and-a-half months ago.

He said: "I think the memories of Munich are still present for us, and for the club, because they are so recent - just six months ago.

"I still believe we are going to get through because we can win and so can Shakhtar. I want to think in a positive way."

Mata admitted two wins from their five Group E games was not good enough.

"Obviously, we are in this moment arriving in a bad position in this game because we didn't do well enough," he said, struggling to rationalise a collapse by a side riding high at the top of the Barclays Premier League six-and-a-half weeks ago.

He also denied Chelsea lacked leaders in the absence of the injured John Terry and Frank Lampard but acknowledged they needed such "legends" back.