Chelsea midfielder Juan Mata has told his teammates they can stage a dramatic fightback against Napoli if they treat the Champions League last 16 second-leg tie like a cup final.
After a 3-1 defeat in the first leg in Naples, Mata knows Chelsea are underdogs heading into Wednesday’s return at Stamford Bridge, but the Spanish star is convinced Roberto Di Matteo’s team can secure the 2-0 win that would send them through to the last eight on away goals.
Mata insists Chelsea, who have won both their matches under interim boss Di Matteo following the sacking of Andre Villas-Boas, should take inspiration from their perfect European record at Stamford Bridge this season.
“In football, nothing is impossible,” he said. “At Stamford Bridge, this Champions League, we had good results in the group – 3-0, 2-0 and 5-0.
“All the supporters, for sure, will be cheering us. It’s a final for us and I think we can do it.”
While Napoli’s attacking trio of Edinson Cavani, Marek Hamsik and Ezequiel Lavezzi are capable of troubling the Chelsea rearguard, Mata believes his side’s forwards should be able to exploit the Italians’ own weaknesses at the back.
“From the first minute, we have to try to create chances to score,” he said.
“We know that they have very, very good strikers. We have to be careful with them but we are going to press them from the first minute.”
Mata, whose side beat Stoke 1-0 on Saturday, admits morale was low during the final weeks of Villas-Boas’s reign, but he is adamant that is no longer a problem under Di Matteo.
“It wasn’t easy, it wasn’t easy, because you know we had a change, a big, big change,” he said.
“But I believe the team is still believing, is still working very good and the two wins, for sure, bring to us a lot of confidence.”
Di Matteo has persisted with the Villas-Boas experiment of playing Mata more centrally, something that paid off on Saturday when the Spaniard came off the bench to set up Didier Drogba’s 100th Premier League goal.
Asked whether a free role was something he could expect more often, Mata said: “I always try to be in contact with the ball – it’s the football that I like. But, I don’t know, it’s a question for Robbie.”