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Mata keen to get one over champions

Juan Mata is certain to play against Barcelona tonight -- the club for whom he almost signed last summer before he joined Chelsea for £23.5m.

No outfield player has made more appearances for Chelsea than Mata this season -- 42 starts and five more as a substitute -- and in a team that lacks sparkle, he is increasingly relied upon as the creator. Successive Chelsea teams have never really cherished the ideal of a traditional No10 playmaker -- just ask Mata's predecessor in the shirt, Joe Cole.

Frank Lampard, with 16 goals, has scored four more than Mata this season, but the younger man has got some crucial goals, and not just the one that did not cross the line against Spurs in Sunday's FA Cup semi-final. In a 4-2-3-1 formation it is Mata who slots in just behind the central striker. On Sunday that striker was Didier Drogba, but there is every chance it could be Fernando Torres tonight.

Mata, 23, said that he thought it would be Torres who would start against Barcelona.

"Fernando nearly always scored against Barca when he was at Atletico Madrid," he said. "He really wants to play this one."

Chelsea have lost just two of their eight games with Barcelona in the Roman Abramovich era, the last of those was more than six years ago, and they need to win tonight to have any hope of getting through.

"Winning 1-0 or 2-0 in the first leg would be ideal," Mata said. "We can score there. The most important thing is to score and if we keep a clean sheet then even better.

"If there is one ground where Barca have not had it easy it is Stamford Bridge (they have won once there in those eight games, back in February 2006)," he added.


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