Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho has told Juan Mata to follow the example of Michael Essien in order to convince him of his worth.
Ghana midfielder Essien, who spent last season on loan at Real Madrid under Mourinho, was not named in Chelsea’s Champions League squad and will on Tuesday night make his first appearance of the season at Swindon in the Capital One Cup, when World Cup winner Mata will also feature.
Mourinho has not been swayed by Mata’s reputation as Chelsea player of the year in each of the last two seasons and demands more.
“He’s not the same as Essien,” Mourinho said.
“Essien didn’t play one single minute and I left him out of the Champions League list.”
Mata’s projected appearance at the County Ground will be his fourth of the season for Chelsea, having failed to convince Mourinho of his talents in starts against Aston Villa, Everton and a substitute appearance versus Basle.
While Mata must deliver as an individual, Mourinho is also targeting a collective improvement after ending a four-match winless run, and bouncing back from successive defeats, with a 2-0 win over Fulham.
Others on the periphery will also play at Swindon, including David Luiz, Essien, Cesar Azpilicueta and Ryan Bertrand, while the likes of Oscar, Mourinho’s favoured playmaker, and Ashley Cole rest ahead of Saturday’s London derby with Tottenham.
He added: “We have to work to improve. Now the head is cleaner, now we have to work on other things.
“The boys who I give two days’ off, they have to enjoy their little holiday.
“The beginning of the season was quite hard for us.
“Now we have a period of four consecutive matches away. We play Swindon, Tottenham, Norwich and Steaua (Bucharest) all of them away from home.
“We have to prepare ourselves the best we can. And everyone’s going to play, because we have four consecutive matches.”
Oscar opened the scoring against Fulham and John Obi Mikel netted his third goal in 282 games for Chelsea – his first in the Premier League and his first since scoring twice in successive rounds of the FA Cup against lower league opposition in January 2007.
Nigeria midfielder Mikel told Chelsea TV: “I am pretty happy about it. It has been a long time and the guys have been killing me about it.
“They say you go to the national team and score but you don’t score for Chelsea so it was good for me to get my first Premier League goal. I scored in the FA Cup a couple of times.
“I do practise scoring in training sometimes but I don’t get into the positions often. Gone are the days when I go onto the pitch thinking ’it might be me today’, for me it is about the team.
“This game was all about winning and we got the three points, and my goal was just a bonus.”
Chelsea exited to boos following the Basle loss and there have been murmurs of discontent, as well as bafflement at Mata’s omission.
“Our fans have been disappointed about a few performances coming into this game so we wanted to give them something,” Mikel added.
“The manager was very disappointed with us as well, the way we played the last game against Basle.
“We were feeling a bit of pressure but if you look at this team, we have big players and a big squad and it is not all about playing when it is rosy, it is also about playing when people are not happy and you have to go out there and show character, and I think we did that in this game.”
Fulham now have one win in five matches – the Capital One Cup defeat of Burton - and next play in the competition on Tuesday.
Manager Martin Jol expects to welcome back striker Dimitar Berbatov and midfielder Bryan Ruiz from injury for the visit of Everton.
Jol was booed following the 1-1 draw with West Brom as Fulham’s winless run at Craven Cottage was extended to six games.
Now on the home return, Jol recognises the importance of any win.
“We need a win to get back to the top 10,” Jol said.
Asked if there were encouraging signs in his side frustrating Chelsea, Jol added: “I’m only optimistic after these games and after winning these games.”
It might have been better for Fulham had Darren Bent converted in the first half when played through by Pajtim Kasami.
“We have to forget now this result and we have to look forward to the next game and get a win at home,” Kasami told Fulham’s official website.