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.”