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Mata's on ball after siesta

JUAN MATE declared Chelsea had not even begun to reap the rewards of his sunshine siesta after continuing his stunning form following his fortnight off.

Blues boss Roberto Di Matteo's decision to hand Mata a two-week break looks to have paid off spectacularly, with the Spain star once again the matchwinner in Saturday's 2-1 Premier League victory at Arsenal.

In his three starts since his return, Mata has scored twice and racked up four assists, playing a key part in two-thirds of Chelsea's goals.

The 24-year-old's time off, which saw him travel to his native Spain to catch up with friends and family, appears to have done him the world of good.

He insisted he was actually feeling fine beforehand, despite having played at both Euro 2012 and the London Olympics, but acknowledged he would eventually feel the benefit.

"Not now. Later. Maybe in January, February," he said.

"The season is so long for each player. Maybe these two weeks will be very important for me.

"We had a talk before the start of the season because, with the Euro cup and the Olympic Games, it must be a hard summer for me.

"So I think it was logical.

"Before I had these two weeks, I didn't feel bad. But I think, with so many games in the season, it will be good for me and now I feel very, very good.

"I think it was a nice break for me. Two weeks resting, trying to get out of football and now I feel really fit.

"I feel really well as well because of the good run of results for the team. We stayed at the top of the league, so I'm very happy."

Goalkeeper Petr Cech hailed Di Matteo's brave decision to rest a player who is arguably Chelsea's best at present.


"For us, the important thing is to have Juan Mata for the whole season, not for three months and then to see him burn," he said.

"That's, I think, what some people could possibly suffer where you play 60 games and you go to the Euros and your team starts the qualifying rounds so early. He can get burnt, easily.

"You need to have a break and it was well done from the coaching staff."

Cech also had some time off during the international window after the Czech Republic agreed for him to sit out their friendly matches amid fears too much football would leave him needing surgery on a chronic elbow problem.

The 30-year-old said: "I hope it will alleviate that anyway because I've been playing with that for years and nearly always managed to stay on top of it.

"So, I hope it's going to be the case again for the coming years.

"Not to travel with the national team and not to play more games, it can be helpful and that's why, when I spoke with the national team, I got that option."

Saturday's game was billed as the first real test of Chelsea's title credentials and of their new, bolder approach.

They passed with flying colours and Cech said: "We had difficult games so far in the season and we managed to go through really well.

"We want to go step by step, game by game, into the right direction, winning games.

"It was a game where everybody said, 'Okay, this is a real test of how they are doing', and we did well - so it's pleasing."

Captain John Terry also came through his own trial by fire, less than 48 hours after being found guilty of using racist language towards Anton Ferdinand.

Cech said: "All his career, he's shown that to play football is what matters to him.

"So, he's playing, he's focusing on his game.

"All the other things are unfortunate, but he's on the pitch, he's doing well, and that's why we need him like that."

Di Matteo has refused to get carried away with Chelsea's start to the Premier League season, insisting they should be judged after 19 games, not six.

They are already four points clear of champions Manchester City and Manchester United. But Di Matteo said: "It's only six games into a very long season.

"It gives us belief and confidence and hopefully we can build on it.

"So far, we have had a good start. But that's all it is."

Asked when the right time would be to judge his new-look side, the Italian said: "When you get towards the halfway mark, halfway through the season. Then you probably have a better idea about it."