Benitez reserves praise for influential Mata

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Chelsea interim manager Rafael Benitez has heaped praise on the ever-growing role of Juan Mata at Stamford Bridge.

The Spaniard has been in excellent form for the Blues, impressing under his compatriot during a difficult recent spell in west London.

However, Benitez insists it’s important that the club don’t become too reliant on Mata, who has been passed fit to play against Newcastle today (Saturday) along with goalkeeper Petr Cech.

“It’s not just Juan but also Petr Cech and hopefully David Luiz in the future. They are key players for us,” Benitez is quoted as saying by London24.

“Juan is, if you see the stats, doing really well so it’s important to have players that are in good form are fit. If we see another one doing well I’ll be really pleased because then you are not depending on one player.”

To emphasise the importance of Mata, he spent the first-half of last week’s FA Cup fourth round draw against Brentford on the bench, before being withdrawn with a two-goal lead against Reading in midweek.

On both occasions, Chelsea struggled in his absence, and whilst Benitez acknowledges that the player was missed at Griffin Park, he doesn’t think Mata’s exit affected the result at the Madejski Stadium.

“I can see the connection with Mata playing against Brentford as he was very influential in attack,” he admitted.

“I can’t see the difference with Mata with the last ball in the last minute because he will not win in the air for sure.”

Benitez was also happy to speak on the Eden Hazard situation, admitting he was happy that the FA decided against extending the Belgian’s initial three-game ban for an altercation with a ballboy at Swansea City.

“We knew that could be three games. No more. That’s it. We are really pleased,” he’s quoted as saying by the same website.

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