ESPN FC: "Pupil vs. Master" at the Lane
Juan Mata has rejected suggestions he is frustrated at his limited playing opportunities under Jose Mourinho and has turned to the Chelsea boss for "help" in his quest to reach the 2014 World Cup.
Mourinho has publicly recognised Brazilian midfielder Oscar as the ideal player for Mata's preferred No. 10 role, but in an interview with The Telegraph, the Spaniard offered no criticism of his manager as he looks for a place in the starting line-up when Chelsea travel to White Hart Lane on Saturday.
When quizzed about his strong performances last season, Mata insisted he still has plenty of room for improvement and feels Mourinho is an important part of his development.
"To be the perfect player is very very difficult. If you ask me last season if it was the perfect season, it was the best in my career, but I could still have done better," Mata said. "I think Jose can help me. I think he's a manager who analyses everything, not just in our team but in the opposition.
"You can see it in the statistics, you can see it how he re-watches games every time. He's a manager who likes intensity, who likes pressure, who likes to be a compact team and I think he had success where he was.
"We have too many young players and we have players who have been signed and are new and need to adapt to what the manager wants, but we also have experienced players."
Mata hopes his versatility in attack will give him an advantage when Mourinho selects his team for the Tottenham clash.
"He just told me to play in between the lines and try to control the midfielders and that’s what I try to do," said Mata. "I can play as a No 10 on the wing as I did in first two seasons here. I will play wherever he demands. I want to do the same job as I did in the last two seasons."
A spot in Vicente Del Bosque's competitive Spain squad for the World Cup could elude Mata if he is unable to establish regular playing time this season, but the 25-year-old is confident of his international prospects.
"It is just the beginning right now, we have eight months to go and I believe in myself more than ever," he added. "I believe in what the season will bring to me. I am very confident of going to the World Cup. I know I am going to be there."