Chelsea looks to masterful Mata against Shakhtar
Snubbed by Spain for recent internationals, Juan Mata has reacted by producing arguably the best form of his career for Chelasea, and Shakhtar Donetsk is up next for the playmaker in the Champions League on Tuesday.
Mata has scored six goals and made a string of assists in his last five games for Chelsea, showing he is fully refreshed after being rested at the start of the season following appearances at the European Championship and Olympics.
He's still being overlooked by world champion Spain but Shakhtar will know Mata is the danger man in the Group E match at the Donbass Arena.
''I just try to improve with every Chelsea game I play,'' Mata said after scoring twice in Chelsea's 4-2 win over Tottenham on Saturday, maintaining his team's four-point lead in the Premier League. ''I just want to do my best for my team and, at this moment, I am feeling really well.''
Both teams have four points - two ahead of Juventus, which will be expecting consecutive wins from its upcoming matches against Danish club FC Nordsjaelland.
Juve beat Napoli 2-0 in a top-of-the-table match in the Italian league on Saturday, leaving the reigning champions unbeaten this season - just like Chelsea.
''This sends a message that we're (in form),'' assistant coach Angelo Alessio said. ''The numbers speak clearly. Seven victories and a draw in eight (Serie A) matches, the best attack and the best defense, solid play and organization.''
Juventus' 2-2 draw with Chelsea on matchday one should leave the group well poised through to the final round of games, with little to split the top three.
Chelsea has started the season better than many would have expected, quickly finding its stride as the European champions look to add more creativity to their renowned strength in defense.
Attacking midfielders Eden Hazard and Oscar have settled quickly after big-money moves in the summer and their link-up play with Mata has been a joy to watch.
''We are playing more with the ball (this season) and I think it's more enjoyable for me and the team,'' Mata said. ''If you can win and also play really well, it is the perfect way.''
Shakhtar, which is 12 points clear at the top of the Ukraine league, drew 1-1 away to Juventus in their last Champions League match having opened with a 2-0 win over Nordsjaelland.
''It's a higher level of play, especially since we're meeting Chelsea,'' Shakhtar midfielder Willian said. ''We have to be focused because if we play well, it'll be a huge step for us and it will allow us to advance in the tournament.''
Chelsea is expected to recall captain John Terry to its defense after the center back was suspended for the victory at Tottenham while he serves a four-match domestic ban for racially abusing an opponent in a Premier League game. Neither Chelsea nor Shakhtar have any new injury problems.
There are doubts over the fitness of Juventus goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon, who sat out both Italy's win over Denmark last week and the victory over Napoli.
Juventus manager Antonio Conte is suspended until December for a match-fixing scandal stemming from when he coached Siena two seasons ago.