• Premier League

Ivanovic: Mata in Premier League elite

ESPN staff
September 11, 2013
Juan Mata has found himself marginalised at Chelsea this season after an excellent 2012/2013 campaign © AP

Juan Mata still has a key role to play at Chelsea, according to his club team-mate Branislav Ivanovic, who described the midfielder as "one of the best players in the Premier League".

Speaking after Serbia's 3-0 win over Wales in Cardiff, Ivanovic said that despite recent speculation questioning Mata's future at Stamford Bridge, Chelsea's No. 10 remains a central figure in the club's push for honours on all fronts under the returning Jose Mourinho.

"He's a player who was one of the best in the last two years," said Ivanovic.

"He came back late from the summer, but he's had the time to work now. He's a guy who is really important for us and for the team.

"It's important for him to train hard, keep going and use every chance. I always said that, for me, Mata is one of the best quality players in the league. He has a brilliant touch, and he's a brilliant guy."

Ivanovic does recognise, however, that nobody in Chelsea's well-stocked pool of creative talents can take their place for granted, and underlined his feeling that Kevin De Bruyne could emerge as a crucial option for the Blues following his return from a successful loan spell at Werder Bremen.

"Kevin has refreshed our frontline," Ivanovic enthused. "He has some different qualities to the other guys, some important things, and I think he's one of the guys who is most important for us in the attacking (part of the game). He is someone who can change a game, decide a game.

"I hope we can have success as a group. It's important to stick together, focus and finish the season well."

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