Posted on: Fri 30 Mar 2012

Seven months ago when Juan Mata arrived at Chelsea from Valencia, he knew matches against Tottenham were important. However he hadn't realised the extra significance which this London derby possesses.

Now he is fully aware of the long-standing and passionate rivalry and appreciates that for many of our fans, points taken off Spurs are that little bit sweeter.

'I knew that they were rivals, but I didn't know that they were rivals with such intensity,' Mata told the official Chelsea website.

'From the game at White Hart Lane, the other players and the fans, I quickly found out what a passionate game it is.'

The 23-year-old Spaniard, who played the full 90 minutes in the reverse fixture which ended 1-1 back in December, can't wait for the re-match.

'It's an eagerly awaited game and a fantastic game to play in. I'm really looking forward to such an intense atmosphere.

'It's going to be very difficult. Tottenham have a great squad and a great manager who has lots of experience in the Premier League. They are in front of us in the league for a reason, because up to now they have been better. Tottenham are a very complete team. We have to be aware of their attackers like Bale and Modric. These are players who are very dangerous.'

'Just because they are going through a tough spell at the moment, doesn't mean it will be easy. All good teams go through tough spells. Soon they will start another good spell. We just have to make sure it doesn't start tomorrow.'

The Burgos-born playmaker emphasises the importance of the game to the season as a whole.

'We find ourselves in a position in the league which we want to improve, and therefore we need points.

'We have to strive to get third place in order to qualify for the Champions League next season. At the same time we must try to win the FA Cup and advance in the Champions League. Hopefully we can advance on all fronts.'

It is also a very important season for Mata on a personal level.

'Not only is it my first at a new club,' he says, 'but I have to remember that at the end of the season, the Olympics and the European Championships are taking place.

'I am learning lots of new things and trying to improve as a player. I have got to know English football and adapted myself. I am happy at the club and the country and really enjoying my first season here in England.'

By Jonathan Campkin