Juan Mata will find himself back in the Chelsea team if he continues to produce the kind of performance he did against Swindon, boss Jose Mourinho has revealed.
Mata has fallen out of favor at Stamford Bridge since Mourinho's return in the summer, with Oscar, Eden Hazard and Andre Schurrle preferred for their superior defensive work rate. But Mata produced a more disciplined display against the Robins on Tuesday evening, and Mourinho admits he has been impressed by his No. 10's reaction to being dropped.
When asked if Mata stood a chance of keeping his place for Saturday's clash with Tottenham, the Blues boss replied: "Yes. I liked him [against Swindon].
"We are speaking about a team that is two divisions below us, but professionalism is important no matter who you play against.
"He made a big effort to come in my direction, and when he does that, all I can do is go in his direction. From now if he keeps working that way, the football I want, the natural tendency is to be in the team."
Saturday's match at White Hart Lane has been billed as a personal duel between Mourinho and his former protege, Andre Villas-Boas, who spoke of their relationship earlier this week. Mourinho was in no mood to answer questions on the subject, though.
"I don’t describe [our relationship] because I don’t discuss relationships with the media," Mourinho said. "I don’t care what he says, and I’m not going to comment. I’m not interested.
When asked what influence he had on Villas-Boas' managerial career, Mourinho responded: "I have no idea. You have to ask him, it’s not my problem.
"I had so many assistants and was always an open book to all of them trying to do the same with Chris Jones, Steve Holland and the coaches in the academy. After that if they want to read the book, it’s not my problem."
The Chelsea manager does, however, believe the summer of transfer activity means Tottenham will mount a serious challenge this season, despite losing Gareth Bale.
"I think they are a big contender," Mourinho said. "They were the champions of the market, all international players with quality. The squad is very good. Before there was a bit of a difference between first choice and second line, but in this moment they have two teams.
"I think they have a much better squad now than before, and no one can criticize me for that. You win titles with squads, not a good player, so I think they are bigger contenders than before."
Ramires did not train with the Chelsea squad on Friday, but Mourinho remains hopeful that he can feature on Friday.
"I hope he plays and we’re doing everything for him to play," Mourinho said.
One man who is definitely out, though, is Marco van Ginkel, who underwent successful surgery on an anterior cruciate ligament injury, but will still be out for six months.
"He had surgery and it went well the doctor is happy, but now he has to wait and wait for a long time," Mourinho said. "It’s very sad for a kid who was going to an important season for his evolution, but that’s football. We have lost a player for almost the whole season."