Sunday 21 January 2018

Di Matteo hails Blues' 'attitude change' as Mata runs riot

Tottenham 2 Chelsea 4

Henry Winter

Another week dawns, bringing another week of challenges for Chelsea -- footballing challenges that the champions of Europe and Premier League leaders are eager to accept.

Roberto Di Matteo's side face Shakhtar Donetsk away tomorrow and Manchester United at home on Sunday in two games which will give a greater indication of their ability to add to their trophy cabinet.

They won the FA Cup and Champions League last season with a mixture of defiance and organisation. Now they are a far more fluid force.

"What has changed is our attitude,'' reflected Di Matteo after a deserved victory at White Hart Lane.

"We go away and play with the same attitude we have at home, so we take the initiative, we don't just give it to the opposition. We want to impose ourselves, whether away or at home."

What has also changed, self-evidently, is the expansion of Chelsea's creative department with the arrival of Eden Hazard and Oscar, forming the three musketeers with Juan Mata, cutting defences like Spurs' to ribbons.

"We have been lucky with the way the players we signed have settled into the club quickly and into the Premier League," Di Matteo said.

"That's thanks to the players already here, particularly with Oscar, as the Spanish and Portuguese players have helped him integrate quicker.

"I speak a little bit of Spanish with Oscar. He understands English if I speak slowly. Eden understands English okay.

"Hazard has slotted in very easily, like Mata last season, and they seem to have a good understanding."

Mata gave an insight into the system. "The three behind the striker (Fernando Torres) always try to play with movement, swapping positions and trying to assist our striker,'' said Chelsea's No 10.

"We have to work in training but we are players who play like this naturally as well. I don't think it is a surprise. Oscar, Hazard, Fernando are top players. If you can win and also play really well, it is the perfect way."

Spurs tried in an entertaining game. The first half was good, spiced by Gary Cahill's volley to give Chelsea the lead.

Mata twice went close, as did Clint Dempsey before the excellent Ashley Cole cleared a Jermain Defoe effort off the line.

The second half was even better, the home team having staged an important confab at the break.

"We told each other to press higher up the pitch because their centre-backs were playing much too easily," Jan Vertonghen said. "When we pressed them we had a few good chances."

William Gallas equalised from a corner. Then Defoe pounced to give Spurs the lead, drawing praise from his manager. "He's picking up form and looking sharp and works well with the team," said Andre Villas-Boas.

But there is such technical quality in Chelsea's side, such will to win. Mata struck twice in three minutes and then created Daniel Sturridge's coup de grace. Di Matteo was delighted but he certainly was not getting carried away by a four-point lead over United and City. "There has been a 10-12 points' advantage given up by teams," he warned.

Spurs, for their part, are still rebuilding, still dealing with questions.

Are they over-reliant on Gareth Bale? The Welshman missed the game as his partner had gone into labour.

Can Defoe and Emmanuel Adebayor play together? "An option of two strikers is one of our strongest possibilities,'' argued Villas-Boas. "They linked very well and so it's something that can happen."

Talking of absent centre-halves, John Terry starts against Shakhtar and Mata will welcome him back. "For me and for the team-mates talking about him, he is always a legend," Mata said. "I am really good with him, happy to train and play games with him. As a defender he is a key player for us." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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