At the beginning of the season Juan Mata was, as you may have heard, marginalised by Jose Mourinho.
The two-time Chelsea Player of the Year was left out of the club's squad for the 2-0 victory over Fulham at fortnight ago but managed to claw his way back into the side after a strong 45 minutes against Spurs last weekend.
On his return to the starting XI against Steaua, we investigate whether he did enough to earn the trust of Mourinho...
Mata's Influence Against Steaua
Mata had a strong game for Chelsea. The Spaniard featured mainly as the No.10, although he interchanged with Oscar, who started wide right. Mata was in good creative form in this role and created six chances for his team-mates in the process:Juan Mata Key Passes v Steaua
Mata's six chances created actually make him Chelsea's most creative player in Europe this season, having created seven chances in his two Champions League appearances. Furthermore, last night he also created more chances than the whole Steaua team (five chances created).Chelsea Top Chance Creators In The Champions League
In a side that haven't been free-scoring (until last night) in front of goal, the importance of this cannot be overstated. The return to the fold of a player who created a staggering 95 chances last season for his team-mates is a big boost to a Chelsea side who have had a mixed start to the campaign.
One noticeable aspect to Mata's game against Steaua was his willingness to press opposition defenders. Mata was seen closing down opposition players and putting pressure when they were on the ball. This is something that Oscar does very well when he is playing in the No.10 role. A lack of pressing and harrying of the opposition is one reason why Mourinho dropped Mata in the first place.
If we observe Mata's heat map from the 4-0 victory we can see that he did track back down the right a little bit (although it could have been more regular) and he was also dropping deeper around the centre circle, rather than just sitting in behind the forward. In fact, Mata spent over 33% of the game in the middle third of the pitch.Juan Mata Heat Map v Steaua
Mourinho will likely be impressed with this effort, although there is still room for improvement. Mata did press harder than he usually does and undoubtedly worked well off the ball, but he wasn't very productive in terms of winning possession for his team-mates in this game. Whilst he did win one header and make one clearance, Mata did not make a tackle or make an interception over the course of the game. That being said, Oscar's only defensive contribution was two tackles as he also failed to make an interception.
Jose Mourinho will likely be very pleased with Mata's return to the side. Mata created six chances for Chelsea in this tie and was impressive all round. The performance of the Spanish playmaker also showed that he and Oscar can feature in the same side together to great effect, which is something we might see again against Norwich this weekend.