Mata prepared for Mestalla reunion

Chelsea’s new No 10 Juan Mata will be back amongst friends much sooner than he could ever have expected as he travels to Spain to take on former club Valencia in the Champions League group stage on Wednesday.

The two teams meet at the Mestalla just a matter of weeks after the 23-year-old finalised his move to England. Chelsea captured Mata for an undisclosed fee, believed to be in the region of € 27m, fighting off strong competition from the likes of Arsenal and Manchester United.

It will no doubt be a night of mixed emotions for Mata, his former teammates and fans alike. Valencia’s Jordi Alba spoke in a press conference this week about the prospect of facing the former Los Che man: “It will be strange to see Mata in another shirt” said the defender. “He is a player who makes a difference and has some of the characteristics that Chelsea were lacking before his arrival.”

He continued: He has adapted well and I’m looking forward to seeing him again. Whatever happens this Wednesday won’t be definitive, but a victory would be a big step forward.”

Valencia were held to a 0-0 draw away at Belgian side Racing Genk in their opening Group E fixture, while Mata was making an immediate impact scoring the opening goal in Chelsea’s 2-0 win over Bayer Leverkusen. “Every player wants to beat a team like Chelsea. They’re one of the top European sides and have a complete team. They’re strong defensively and have quality players up front, but Barcelona were also favourites in our game against them, and that match ended in a draw,” he added.

Mata’s former Valencia roommate, Pablo Hernandez, has also spoken in the build up to the encounter. “It will be special for him as he returns to what was his home for a number of years, but there are no friends on the football pitch. We’ll be giving our all to beat both Chelsea and Juan, then afterwards I can wish him all the best.”

Mata spent four years at Valencia scoring 33 goals in 129 appearances, earning him a place in Spain’s victorious World Cup squad. He told The Daily Star: “It’s going to be a very special and emotional match for me playing so soon after, but my priority is to win for Chelsea. I will try to be very respectful if I do score and not celebrate.

“The fact of the matter is that I was there for four years and had a wonderful time. Everything was very positive and I had great teammates with whom I still keep in touch. Even though we will be rivals shortly, I am still going to do the best I can.”

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