MATA: WINTER WONDER
Juan Mata experienced the harshest of wintry weather for the first time on Friday morning, but admitted it was an enjoyable time as we stepped up preparations for Arsenal this weekend.
The players had a day off on Thursday following the midweek draw with Southampton, but were back in this morning as groundstaff battled against the elements to provide a suitable playing surface at Cobham.
'It was difficult training in the snow,' Mata admitted afterwards. 'The pitch is a little hard and slippery, but it was important for us to train after a day off and move the body again.
'I'm not used to these conditions. I've been trying to think if I've ever played in this weather before and I don't think so. There is no snow in Valencia, and in Madrid it was never like this, where it is covering all the pitch but it was good fun though, I've been waiting for the snow to come and the team all enjoyed it.'
Since Rafael Benitez arrived in November, he has encouraged a slightly different style of play from that under Roberto Di Matteo, to move the ball faster around the danger areas. Mata admits it is a side of the game the squad must continue to improve.
'Training and playing football is always fun anyway, but we have been focused a lot as we have had so many matches, so we are always looking ahead to the next test and trying to avoid losing more points,' the 24-year-old said. 'We are always trying to train in the way we can play, which has changed a little bit with Rafa.
'My own game hasn't changed too much but maybe I am playing more as a second striker than I was before. What he told me was to try and be in contact with the ball as much as I can, moving from one side to the other and being an option for my team-mates. That's what I'm trying to do, and we still have to improve some things like moving the ball quickly because especially at Stamford Bridge, the other teams defend a lot and put 10 players behind the ball, making it difficult to look for the gaps.'
Arsenal, however, are not expected to sit back and soak up our pressure. Mata anticipates Arsene Wenger's side will come to the Bridge with the aim of picking up three points, and playing in their usual attacking manner.
'Arsenal are like us and like to play with the ball, so it will probably be more open with both teams looking to score goals,' he said.
On the subject of goals, the Spaniard has reserved special praise for Frank Lampard, a team-mate who last week became the club's second-top scorer of all time.
'Frank's goals from midfield have always been important for Chelsea and he is still a very important player,' said Mata. 'He is one of the best players in the history of Chelsea and he is always enjoyable to train and play with.'