Torres’ rise no surprise

Juan Mata watched Fernando Torres continue his rehabilitation in a Chelsea shirt before reminding the striker’s doubters: I told you so.

While many gave up on Torres ever coming good at Stamford Bridge, Mata never lost faith that his fellow Spaniard would eventually begin to justify his record-breaking £50 million price tag.

And the last week and a half have proven him right, with Torres netting in three successive matches for the first time in his Chelsea career, bagging five goals in all.

Mata said: “This is what I saw from him in training all those weeks and months, so I knew it would happen.

“And when I said I could see it coming, that was true. Fernando was, is and will be always an important player.”

Torres’s revival has mirrored that of Chelsea as they have shaken off their worst slump for 15 years in the Premier League to win three straight games in all competitions.

One more against Corinthians tomorrow and they will win the Club World Cup.

“That’s what we’re trying to do,” said Mata, who claimed the “intensity and confidence” was back at Chelsea under interim manager Rafael Benitez.

Chelsea comfortably beat Monterrey in Thursday’s semi-final and Mata added: “That was the sort of football the manager has told us he wants to see, wants us to play.

“But having come out here, so far, we are only halfway. We have to finish the job on Sunday.

“We know that Corinthians are one of the best teams in South America, so we will have to play at our best level.”

Especially in possession.

“It will be the main point for the game for us — whether we can keep the ball or not,” Mata said.

“We know they are a team who likes to play with the ball, a typical Brazilian team.

“But we have players as well who want to play that way. We want to have the ball, to make passes, create chances and assists.”

Benitez, meanwhile, has insisted Frank Lampard was not being discarded by Chelsea because he was past his best.

Benitez claimed the Stamford Bridge decision-makers who have halted contract talks with the England midfielder had no doubt about “his condition, his levels, his quality”.

The manager suggested Roman Abramovich and the board were analysing “different things”, but did not go into more detail.

Benitez said: “For sure, he’s a fantastic player, a great professional — there’s no doubt about this.

“Also, when I talk to the people in charge, they are telling me the same, so nobody has any doubt about his condition, his levels, his quality.”

Lampard has been linked with moves to Los Angeles Galaxy, Chinese club Guizhou Renhe and a host of other clubs — even Chelsea’s Premier League rivals Arsenal.

Already short in midfield, Chelsea are unlikely to let him leave in January but he could sign a pre-contract agreement elsewhere.

Lampard said: “I’m not the kind of player to see out my time and sit with my bum on the bench too much. I want to be involved.

“I will keep trying to do that, whatever the circumstances.”


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