Juan Mata: AVB paid for impatience


Juan Mata has claimed that Andre Villas-Boas may have paid the price for trying to change the way Chelsea played too quickly, but denied the players forced him out of the club.

Villas-Boas's sacking as manager followed widespread reports of dressing-room unrest at Stamford Bridge. There were also suggestions that the billionaire owner Roman Abramovich read the riot act to the squad immediately after dispensing with the 34-year-old.

Winger Mata, who was signed from Valencia last summer, told Spanish radio station Cope: "He did not come to tell us off. He talked to us last week after the change of manager. He had also come to one or two training sessions. No player in the squad has done anything or thought about a change in the coach. He was the manager and we all put our faith in him. He had good ideas and he wanted to change things in the club but, in the end, it is the results that matter. Nobody got rid of him.

"He came with the idea of how he played at Porto – the pressure high up the pitch, robbing the ball and always being very close to the opponents' goal with a very offensive football.

"Perhaps Chelsea were used to a different style, perhaps a more physical one with a lot of chances in a small space of time, not such a fluid style but still a very attacking one.

"It was maybe imposing a style when the team were not used it."

Mata also backed his team-mate and compatriot Fernando Torres to turn his Chelsea career around and force his way back into the Spain squad for this summer's European Championship. Torres has now gone almost 24 hours of playing time, dating back to October, without scoring for the Blues and has been dropped by his country. But Mata said: "Fernando still has time. He has lived through a lot of good and bad. He is working extremely hard in training.

"You can't forget so soon his 80 goals in Liverpool," said Mata. "He'll be a very important player for Chelsea and for Spain.

"People talk about the fact that Fernando has not scored but he is constantly creating space. I've scored goals thanks to him. He has given me a lot of assists. There have been other games when the keeper has made a fantastic save or he has hit the bar."

Meanwhile, Chelsea will attack from the first minute as they seek to overhaul a 3-1 deficit in the second leg of their Champions League last 16 tie at home to Napoli tomorrow.

Roberto di Matteo has taken over the coaching duties after Villas-Boas's departure and his first taste of European action could be his last unless his players stage a stunning comeback. If Chelsea needed any encouragement that their bid to book a quarter-final berth was not an impossible task, they only have look to fellow Premier League side Arsenal who fell just short when faced with a much bigger challenge last week.

Arsenal trailed 4-0 from their first leg at Milan but scored three goals at home to lose 4-3 on aggregate. Chelsea's job is easier than that even if Napoli are on a run of six successive wins in all competitions.

"From the first minute we have to try to create chances to score. We know they have very good strikers and we have to be careful with them, but we will press from the first minute," Mata said on the club's website (www.chelseafc.com).

Mata's goal in Napoli could prove valuable as a 2-0 win in London would put England's only remaining representatives through on away goals.

"In football nothing is impossible and at Stamford Bridge we have had good results in the Champions League, so I think we can do it," the Spaniard added. "All the supporters will be cheering us, it's a final for us, and we can do it."

The return of captain John Terry to the starting lineup for Saturday's 1-0 Premier League win over Stoke City should provides a boost to their central defence for the return leg.

However, for all the hope Chelsea might have after back-to-back wins and clean sheets since Di Matteo took charge, they come up against a team on an even better run.