We are a big happy family, insists Mata

 

Andre Villas-Boas has created a "family" atmosphere at Chelsea, according to Juan Mata, settling one of the Premier League's most fractious dressing rooms and helping every player at a club notoriously riven by factions feel as though they are involved.

The 34-year-old Portuguese's methods have raised eyebrows at times this season, both inside and outside the club: his decision to ostracise Nicolas Anelka and Alex to Chelsea's youth teams, preventing them training with their team-mates after both handed in transfer requests, seemed draconian, while his reported insistence that the players celebrate their goals with his technical staff has been widely lampooned.

Regardless of how novel his approach is, though, Mata insists that it is working: victories against Newcastle, Valencia and, on Monday night, against the previously unbeaten Premier League leaders Manchester City have given Chelsea a crucial injection of self-belief. It is how the club responded to their travails prior to that triumphant week, though, that the Spain international sees as conclusive proof that the players are united behind their young manager.

"The team has shown in the worst moments of our season that we are with the manager," he said. "Now that we are in a run of results where things are more positive, everything is easier, but we have shown that we are together with the manager and with the technical staff. We are like a family.

"The manager wants everyone to feel involved, so that they feel ready to perform to their best, and that is what we have now. There are lots of players here but we all feel like we are part of things. We are not 11 players, we are a squad of 25. The manager decides everything and we just try to do whatever he wants us to do. We are in third place now, but we have to keep going. There is no point in beating City if we are going to lose straightaway. We have to keep winning.

"The most important thing in any sport is confidence. A few days ago, we did not have as much confidence as now, and that can only be attributed to the change in results. Now that we have beaten the leaders and qualified for the last 16 of the Champions League, we can keep growing in confidence. This last week has given us a lot of belief.

"We showed our character when we went a goal down to Mario Balotelli. We did not lose any of our fight. All of the things we have been working on, all of our preparations, came to the fore in the second half. We have to keep fighting, because we are still in with a chance of winning three trophies."

The Football Association confirmed Chelsea will face no sanctions for a tunnel confrontation following the victory against Roberto Mancini's side. The Italian alleged a comment from Ashley Cole sparked a 30-man commotion including players and technical staff.

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